tanzania part i : tarangire national park

thinking back on my family’s trip to tanzania 1 year ago… looking through the film photos of the magnificent creatures fills me with such nostalgia, a bit of sadness at the state of the natural world, and a deep desire to do something more with the time and energy i have at this age. i’ve always been a wildlife lover , and thought deeply about the relationships between humans and animals and one of my big questions to answer this year is what i can do to have impact as the climate and natural world changes so quickly before our eyes and under our feet.

it’s a question i don’t have an answer for yet, but i’m meditating on it… and in the meantime trying to make better choices as a consumer and put my money where my values are. i read recently about the politics of money and how our choices with our wallets are like casting tiny votes for what we believe in. less meat, more small businesses, donations to the organizations doing work around these issues in is where i’ve started.

here are some highlights from tanzania :

our first hike through the low lands of kilamanjaro – remnants of colonialist religion and the takeover of cows on a grass basketball court

up here in the jungle we’re walking through chaga villages and coffee country. the cultivation up here is so precise, woven in with the deep jungle. a moss “driveway” is swept perfectly clean. there are no cars.

we came upon a school after our hike, and we stopped for lunch at the house of our guide’s friend. they have the biggest avocados i’ve ever seen.

on the road, we visit our first national park , tarangire. known as “elephant park” because of the large migrations and concentration of animals here.  they seemed pretty unconcerned with our vehicle. after all, they are used to it. but their dynamic as a family and herd was so precise – always with babies and youngsters in the middle. it turns out the social structure and communication is so sophisticated, that they operate with scouters, babysitters, memory holders, thrusher-outers of big cats and a whole host of roles that change and develop over the course of a lifetime.

our camp this night in the park was a tent lodge and sitting out in front of the mosquito nets looking over the plains as the light set was one of the most beautiful things i’ve ever seen. this landscape is so immense and hot baked and rich and spouting and shifting in light and temperature. i can’t even imagine how it used to be when what we see as national park spanned all across eastern Africa.

back on the road the next morning and the elephants are in full motion

we took a drive along the marsh and saw the animals against the great flat background of a low wetland and mountain. we parked the car and a long train of elephants made their way out of the distance across the bank of the wetland before pouring in altogether to cool off and wade way out in the shallow murk. a baby, too short to stay above water tried to follow until mama circled back and found a nice shallow spot to stay together.

elephant baby tanzaniafurther down the road, we stopped at a swamp and our guide willy pulled over to show us some lions across the way feasting on a baby zebra … my little film camera doesn’t shoot that far and it’s not particularly something i wanted to capture, but he held us there and whispered, “look, here come the elephants, watch this, watch this !” he explained what would happen : they would arrive, and someone would smell the lions, they would send the young males around the side of the swamp to chase them away and we watched as the scene unfolded exactly how he said. still, the organization was uncanny. elephants don’t seem to worry about anything except humans and lions and watching the young bulls charge in and scatter the flat eared big cats drew ideas of an age old rivalry that has played out in millions of tiny dramas over the centuries, remembered and passed on by each dynasty to the next.

i’ll cover the other two national parks we visited in the next posts…

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