On Safari with the Predators and Prey: Tanzania – Part Two

Whether it is diving amongst the colorful and quirky sea creature along the Great Barrier Reef, mingling with lemurs and lizards in Madagascar, tracing evolution in the isolated species of the Galapagos Islands, or tracking grizzlies and whales in Alaska, the world offers us a multitude of fantastic locations in which to view wild animals carousing and carrying-on in their native environment.  Few places, however, offer the variety, proximity, and sheer volume of creature encounters than that of Eastern Africa.  A safari in Tanzania, alone, puts one face to face with thousands of zebras and wildebeests, allows one to walk alongside elephants and giraffes, stare into the cold eyes of crocodiles and hyenas, frolic amongst the gazelle and antelope, and even glimpse a few lions, cheetahs, and leopards, all making for a truly memorable experience.

Whereas a tour of the country’s National Parks can certainly be a self-guided excursion, most visitors to the area opt for the experience and direction of a formal safari with local guides.  Along with the expert knowledge of the area’s flora and fauna — and direction as to some of the best viewing spots — having an experienced guide also brings along the added bonus of an endless stream of stories and anecdotes accumulated over years of close-encounters.  Trust me, if you ever plan a similar trip, these stories end up being one of the highlights.  But enough of the intro, let’s pack up the trucks and head out:

The vehicle of choice for the African safaris is a modified Land Rover, complete with open-air cut-outs in the roof for better viewing

The roads are a bit bumpy, to say the least. And thusly, a day of being beaten and battered around inside an SUV has come to be dubbed an “African Massage”

A lone zebra (i.e. – lunch) out for a stroll

Before diving full force into the world of large cats and even larger mammals (don’t worry, I’m getting there), another revelation for me on this trip was that from the endless plains of the Serengeti to the near-jungle environment surrounding Lake Manyara, there exists an astounding variety of staggeringly diverse landscapes and environments that one can reach within a short drive.  Here are a few shots of the differing scenes from some of the best wildlife-viewing parks:

There aren’t many places to hide on the vast Serengeti

A particularly inviting watering hole in the Tarangire National Park

Looking over the rim of the collapsed caldera that is now known as the Ngorongoro Crater, a personal favorite of mine

The tropical flora and giant Mahogany trees around the alkaline Lake Manyara looks closer to Central America than that of Africa

When describing the experience of the safari to family and friends, two of the most common questions I’ve received are, “Did you see a lot of animals?” and “Were you able to get close to anything?”  I have to bite me lip a bit when faced with these common queries, not because the questions are foolish, but that the answers to both far exceeded anything I had ever anticipated before venturing off.  I’ve previously heard stories of the “thousands” of animals that one will see on a trip like this and the close proximity to the animals that one will achieve, but have always mentally chalked up these claims as abnormalities due to that given person’s trip being particularly fortuitous or just a result of pure embelishment.  Happily, I can now claim that my prior stance was quite wrong, as on a safari like this, you’ll encounter far more animals than you’d ever imagine (whether you want to or not).  As evidence, here’s a short and tranquil video taken after our vehicle, along with a few others, happened to get caught in between a few herds of zebras and wildebeests making their way to drink in a nearby river:

A lion taking its mid-morning siesta in the middle of the road, blissfully oblivious to the surrounding vehicles

On the surface, the safari vehicles may seem safe, but don’t forget that there are still animals out there much larger and more powerful than the automobiles

After appropriately heightening the tension and building up the reader’s anticipation through a series of questionable and unnecessary side tangents above, I’ll finally get to the heart of the post.  Admittedly, this was my first attempt at wildlife photography, but I think it turned out pretty well – largely due to the fact that I was able to borrow a DSLR with a 300mm lens, instead of having to rely on my under-powered point-and-shoot.  Further, due to the sheer number of species living in this part of the world, posting a picture of every type of animal would be nearly impossible, so below is just a few highlights of what can be seen in the wild:

A few of the tens of thousands of elephants that inhabit the Tarangire National Park

A curious giraffe playfully batting its eyelashes at us

A herd of Wildebeests in the midst of their annual migration

A pair of Zebras that like close contact

The mean-spirited Cape Buffalo staring us down

A pair of Cape Buffalo barely visible over the high grasses

Along with the stereotypical elephants, giraffes, zebras, and buffalo pictured above, we were also frequently shadowed by the various monkeys in the trees and eyed cautiously by the many species of antelope:

You have to be careful around the baboons, as in certain places, they’ll jump right into your vehicle looking for food and/or shiny objects to covet

The distinctive white tail of the Colobus Monkey

A curious Blue Monkey coming to say hello

A male Bush Buck standing watch

A touching moment between a mother Impala and its young

You’ve got to run like an antelope out of control!!! (although this is technically a Topi)

The miniscule Dik Dik, which when fully grown, only weighs 8 pounds. I really wish I could have taken a few of these little guys home as pets!

A harem of Grant’s Gazelle

Beyond the species pictured above, the larger predators and often elusive cats that draw the most attention:

A demure female lion showing its bashful side

A male lion watching after its pride

On the prowl

Two Cheetah resting under the shade of an Acacia tree

As if they weren’t dangerous enough on the ground, the Leopards often climb trees in an attempt to catch their prey unaware

A few hippos sleeping on the banks of Lake Manyara

Venturing anywhere near a watering hole can be a perilous journey due to the presence of Nile Crocodiles, which often reach lengths of 20+ feet and are essentially dinosaurs leftover from an earlier age

Even amongst the variety of vicious cats and ruthless predators, the hyena still stood out to me as the creepiest, scariest looking wraiths that walked the plains

In addition to this being my first foray into wildlife photography, I also received my first indoctrination into ornithology.  Providing a soundtrack to the entire safari was the ever present chorus of the local birds, both large and small:

A weaver, which create the distinctive nests within the branches of the Acacia trees

A tree full of vultures, the “vacuum cleaners” of the Serengeti

A Superb Starling showing off its plumage

A trio of male Ostriches drinking, gambling, and generally engaging in tom-foolery without the presence of the females

The bird has flown its perch

And with that, I’ll adjourn the wildlife portion of this post.  As mentioned earlier, I’ve still got another post in the works detailing the rest of my trek through Eastern Africa.  Until then, Afya from Tanzania!

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About andrewamiet

I'm a 29 (now 31) year-old former desk jockey who is now making my way around the world, experiencing all of the sights, sounds, tastes, people, and culture that the world has to offer.

28 Responses to “On Safari with the Predators and Prey: Tanzania – Part Two”

  1. Diane Laughlin Tulp Reply August 5, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Ok, I want to go!! Amazing photos, too!

  2. Great Photos – thanks for the Safari tour:)

  3. Amazing! Can I go on your next adventure?? I’m small, and fit in overhead compartments. 🙂 Great post and Beautiful photos!

  4. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures…..great post!

  5. Andrew, outstanding job again. Can’t wait to see what comes next. I’m sharing your work with my facebook friends.

  6. This may sound hokey, but, over the past nine years I have become fascinated with African animals because of time spent at Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge. These pictures are breathtaking. A trip of a lifetime!

  7. I am happy you didn’t shoot any of the animals.

    • Yep, the only thing I shot them with was my camera, as I’m a pretty staunch advocate for the protection of the local wildlife.

      It was interesting, however, to hear stories about the confrontations the authorities would have with poachers. The rangers (the good guys) were given the “shoot on sight” command in regards to how to deal with the poachers (the bad guys). Unfortunately, the poachers know this, too, and so they try to shoot the rangers first if they get a chance. So basically, it frequently boils down to a wild-west-style shootout unless one side is particularly better armed or outnumbered.

  8. Wow wow wow !!!

  9. Wow Andrew, a few months ago you were traveling around Southeast Asia, and look at you now! Venturing into Africa! I’m currently saving for my future trip to Africa (a few years from now I hope) and Ngorongoro Crater is definitely one of the places to go. Great shots!

    • Thanks, Bama, it was a great trip! As a side note, I’ve really been enjoying reading about your posts through China, as that is going to constitute a significant portion of the next leg of my trip (though I have to make it through Japan and Korea first before I get there).

      And yes, if you come to Eastern Africa, I’d make a beeline for the Ngorongoro Crater — it was my favorite spot, even more so than the Serengeti.

  10. Wow, your photos are amazing. Planning to venture into Africa next year, but this makes me want to go a lot sooner…

  11. I LOVE the wildlife photos …. for me this has been the BEST of all your posts!! WOW I would love to visit here!

  12. Good to see that you are on your travels again! Great post and photos. And for me perfect timing….I’ll be in Tanzania and Kenya in a couple of months so this has really wetted my appetite about what I may see:-)

  13. Jess is going to freak out on these. Now I need a couple grand to take her. Unrelated: DSO in your nation’s capital the last weekend of November? Heady venue. Right by the city’s best Ethiopian restaurant. Could be swaaaayed???

  14. Had a conversation with your Father at Buehlers describing your trip and to make sure I viewed your blog.. You took some fantastic photos with your borrowed camera lol.

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