If you remember, simba was the adorable plush cub in The Lion King. On the dusty Serengeti simbas (‘lions’ in Swahili) are not tame, not cuddly and not to be underestimated. Our safari started out with a meet and greet from Hezron – our guide and owner/operator of Across Tanzania Expeditions. Then we headed out to Lake Manyara – a slightly underrated national park in north central Tanzania bordered to the west by the Rift Valley. The park is teeming with wildlife at this time of year – water is certainly a main factor contributing to this reality during the dry season. Unlike at the zoo, the park is open and free to roam as and when inhabitants like. Case in point: the baboons (which are plentiful) have no sense of the park boundaries are often seen outside and down the road sitting on their butts picking up shoots and bugs.
In the park, we saw:
Beached hippos (bathing in the sun before spending the rest of the day underwater). Hippos are one of the most dangerous species in the African wildlife community. They are extremely agressive not to mention ENORMOUS – i.e. weighting 1 to 2 tonnes. They are entirely untouched/unattempted by the carnivores in the ecosystem – nothing can bring them down.
Vervet monkeys behaving badly as we would expect monkeys to. Play fighting, jumping, climbing, squealing…the usual. They have SUPER long tails that curl when alert.
An amass of baboons who live in troops of 8 to 200. The babies have tiny pink ears and tiny pink butts. These guys are terribly opportunistic and incidentally, find their way into the neighbouring banana plantations. Fortunately, the local people of Mto Wa Mbu have adapted and harvest their bananas before they are ripe (i.e. when they are still green) to avoid dessimation by the baboons.
Elephant families – some upwards of 10 to 15 including babies – trampled through the bush and right onto the roads. Animals have the right of way afterall. The elephant is another extraordinary beast. Very agressive. We had a few near charges at the Land Rover. Let me tell you – you don’t want 6 tonnes of bulk vegetarian charging into your vehicle. Don’t mess with the elephants. The lions know not to and that tells you everything you need to know. Interesting factoid: most elephants end up dying of starvation. Throughout their lifetime they are endowed with six sets of teeth – one per decade. By the time they reach their 60s, they have lost their last set and can eat only mushy foliage. This is hardly sufficient compared to the 250kg consumed daily prior to this point.
Exquisite giraffes (my favourite not to mention total VEGAN-ATORS) are who I dub KING. But then leave it to me to re-arrange the “circle of life”. 🙂 These guys are so tall and graceful. With the exception of their young (often hunted by lions), they grow to die of old age. They live with their heads up in the clouds. What could be better?
The other thing we found an abundance of in Lake Manyara – other than tsetse flies – were the FLAMINGOS. Although the photo above doesn’t do it justice, there were so many that I almost thought I was in Transcona.
*A note about The Big Five:
The Big Five are not the largest of Africa’s mammals but rather the most hunted – for trophy or more recently, other reasons. The LION is hunted for its head/mane. The BUFFALO is hunted for its head/horns. The ELEPHANT is hunted for its head/tusks. The LEOPARD is hunted for its spotted skin. The RHINO is hunted for its head/horn. Rhinos in particular are now one of Africa’s most endangered species. In the Ngorongoro Crater (which I will share more about in another post), there are only 25. Just twenty-five. A recent shipment of elephant and rhino remains were detained in Yemen – enroute to China. The Chinese view Rhinos as a source of our modern version of VIAGRA. I say, the things people will be party to for sex is wholly revolting.