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Tarangire National Park

Northern Circuit, Tanzania

It's the first morning of our Northern Circuit safari tour, and we have no luggage. No update from the airline, no idea where it is. To add to the great start, I am left with no choice but to have a freezing cold shower at the hotel, where it took an obscene amount of mental strength to force my head under the faucet to wash my hair. I then have to put back on the clothes I've been wearing for the last 48 hours, as I have nothing else to change into. Thankfully, things improve with breakfast, which is huge and tasty: fruit, spinach, mixed vegetables, potatoes, toast with loads of avocado, and watermelon juice. 


After breakfast we meet our guide for the week, Richard, and cook, Dickson. Both are young and friendly, immediately putting us at ease. They take us to the company office, where we are kindly loaned thermal clothes, hiking pants, sleeping bags and given a company shirt, bringing our total outfits to two. We didn’t expect to receive so much and we express our immense appreciation. The staff are equally grateful that we have chosen their company in these hard times, when tourists are few and far between. 


As we commence our drive, I stare out at a landscape that reminds me of rural Australia. Farmland in shades of yellow and light brown, completely flat except for the occasional tree sticking up. Kilimanjaro is obscured - you would have no idea the tallest mountain in Africa is looming nearby. It differs to Australia in the number of people ambling along the highway, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Many are dressed for Sunday church service, walking for kilometres along dirty, dusty roads to reach their chosen house of worship. 


Richard stops at a basic supermarket and a tiny clothing store so we can stock up on underwear, insect repellent, chilli sauce (essential), toiletries for Danny, and a towel for me. They only stock tea towels, but it's better than nothing. We are all decked out now with the bare essentials and ready to head off on safari. 

Congesting the roads, other than the infuriatingly slow trucks, are tuk-tuks and the famous dalla-dallas, minibuses that are used to transport locals and livestock alike. Each is individually pimped up, although not quite as spectacularly as the Guatemalan chicken busses. A brief stop at a petrol station results in us being accosted by three Maasai women, sporting a ton of jewellery and attempting to offload beaded bracelets onto us. Free photo if we buy the bracelets, they say. I am keen on the photo but not the accessories. We decline. 


Several hours later we arrive at Tarangire National Park, stopping at a picnic ground inside the gate to eat our provided lunch box. Usually the picnic site is overrun with tourists, Richard tells us, but today we are alone. The adjacent cafe, offering cappuccinos, is closed, much to Danny’s dismay.


Tarangire means “river of warthog”, and the name doesn’t disappoint. The first animal we spot, while eating our lunch, is a warthog. I quickly dash after it with my camera, but he clearly does not want to pose for a photo and runs when he sees me coming.

Once we finish our massive, carb-heavy lunch, we get started on our first ever game drive. The roof of our modified Land Cruiser is popped open, allowing us to stand up for a full 360-degree view while we travel around. Danny and I don’t have high expectations (or really any expectations), and we will be happy if we see a few zebra off in the distance.

The safari blows us away. Not only are there tons of animals and a wide range of species, but many of them are only metres from the road. Here’s a rundown of the wildlife on display for us, in the order we spot them:

  • Zebras. Everywhere. Zebras are very high on my list of animals I want to see, and they are ticked off almost immediately. They are as cool in real life as I imagined. 

  • Black vervet monkeys. They don't do much for us.

  • Impala. One lucky bachelor mingling with a herd of females. 

  • Giraffes. Also near the top of my list. There’s something about their kind eyes and disproportionate bodies I can’t resist. 

  • Wildebeest. One of the uglier antelopes going around. 

  • Baboons. It’s really hard not to stare at their prominent rear ends. 

  • Crowned cranes. I have never heard of these birds, but their heads are quite striking. 

  • Elephants. A large herd line each side of the road, happily munching on plants. One gigantic male stares straight at us, only a few paces away - I hold my breath and stand perfectly still, scared I will somehow upset him and he will charge at us. He doesn't see us as a threat and wanders off. Other elephants are happily spraying themselves with dirt for protection against insects, parasites and the heat. It is amusing to watch. 

  • Superb starlings. A beautiful multicoloured bird that is also new to me. I’m going to be an expert ornithologist by the time I leave Tanzania. 

  • Two female lions, way off in the distance. They lie on a riverbank in the sun, inconveniently nowhere near a road. Apparently it is difficult to spot lions here so we consider ourselves lucky, despite the fact that we needed binoculars to even know they are lions.

  • Jackals. Another ugly animal.

  • Waterbuck. A frightened thing, all by itself, hiding behind a tree. It occasionally pokes its head out to see if we are still there. 

  • Dik-diks. One of the tinier antelopes, and super speedy. Far too fast for my camera.

  • Ostrich. Again, too far away for a decent photo.

  • Baobab trees are frequently pointed out to us, being a renowned place to view the mighty trees. I am more interested in the fauna than the flora though.