Tuesday 07 November 2006
We had a wake up call at 6.00 this morning and half an hour later we were having breakfast. After saying goodbye to the Austrian guests who were leaving, we set off for our morning bush walk.
We set out by car initially so that we could get away from the mud and on the way we saw the resident hartebeest and a male impala. We also saw orynx which can only be found in Tarangire, they often loose one horn during battle (and so are associated with the story of the unicorn), helmeted guineafowl, warthogs running out of their holes (at night they go into their holes backwards so anything venturing in after them would be greeted by their lethal tusks), red-headed and white-headed buffalo weavers (they have communal nests), coqui francolin (orange head) and white-browed cougal (known as the rainbird – they cou cou down a scale to announce that rain is coming).
We saw lesser kudu and hartebeest running away from the sound of our vehicle. We saw a lot of elephant tracks; they are the engineers of the bush (as well as the gardeners!) because they create the ‘highways’ that we were going to be walking in. The paths are narrow because when they walk they swing their foot out and then in front of the other.
We started our walk in the sandy riverbed which was much easier to walk on than the mud. We saw tracks belonging to dik dik, giraffe, hartebeest, elephant, kudu, steenbuck and bushbuck (you could see that the giraffe and elephant had been sliding about a lot in the mud by their footprints).
We saw a couple of dik dik middens (Peter told us that midden is a “fancy word for toilet”), giraffe dung, lots of elephant dung (expected really, since we were mostly following elephant paths), and we saw lots of lesser kudu in the distance (they are 1m at shoulder height) and also saw greater kudu (which are 1m 40cm at shoulder height).
We passed lots of sausage trees; the fruit is really large and tough – if one fell on your head it would hurt. Animals feed on the ground underneath it, mostly eating the tree’s flowers. Porcupine and hyena eat the tough sausage fruit; we saw one with marks from the two front teeth of the porcupine and some with claw marks from the hyena. Baboons also eat the sausage fruit.
We saw two families of elephants that were heading out of the park. One matriarch (also the mother) had four offspring all at different heights because they are normally born two years apart. The youngest was tiny and was mostly underneath the matriarch as they walked. You could barely see the calf because of the long grasses; it must have been a fairly recent birth.
We saw a lilac-breasted roller chase off two red-billed hornbills to defend its territory! A lilac-breasted roller is not very big at all but they will even chase off eagles! The roller rasped in flight (as if to say look at me) before doing some fancy rolls in the air to impress those watching.
We saw giraffe in the distance, about six of them feeding. We saw a bateleur eagle in flight, black-necked weavers maintaining their nests (which they build at the tips of branches to protect themselves from snakes). We saw lots of the red velvet mites and a bright green dung beetle, some curled up millipedes, and a huge male giraffe skull from a giraffe that died of old age – we brought the skull back to camp.
IMG: Julius (the tracker), Natalie and Heiko, with a
large male giraffe skull and elephant dung
(a walking safari in Tarangire)
Julius, the bushman/tracker that accompanied us on our walk, was telling us about the medicinal uses of the trees. One tree that we passed (I think it was a Desert Date Tree), if you crush the roots with water, a mother who has difficulty breastfeeding (no milk) would rub it on her breasts and on her back, it would itch for about an hour and then afterwards the milk would come very easily! He also told us that the roots of the Buffalo Thorn can be used for an upset stomach.
When animals are feeding on grasses and trees, the roots release the chemical tannin which makes the leaves taste bad. It’s a form of protection to deter animals feeding on them. In fact since grasses are close to each other their roots often touch, if one grass releases tannin, so does its neighbour – chemical warfare – this is why an elephant must travel long distances, sometimes they have to move 50m before they find tasty leaves. If trees didn’t produce tannin, an elephant would stay until there was nothing left on the tree and then we would be running out of trees!
We also saw a whistling thorn – an acacia tree which Ethan told us was called an ant globe acacia so I don’t know which is right, or maybe both are. Peter told us that wasps make the swellings and they have just one tiny hole in them that the wasp escapes from. The ants then make the swelling their home – the ants protect the tree and the tree feeds the ants, just the same that Ethan told us. The tree supposedly whistles in the wind because of the holes in the swellings – though we haven’t heard it, and Peter has never heard it.
We were met by the land rover to return to the camp since the last stretch was very muddy – we saw two giraffe on the way and Peter joked, as one of them looked over at us, “What are you doing with Uncle George?!” (Uncle George being the giraffe skull that we had with us!)
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At 13.00 it was time for lunch. Peter had seen a chameleon on his way to the dining tent so first took us to see it too. Then we had lunch which was followed by a delicious pineapple ice cream served out of a pineapple! Afterwards I headed off to take photos of the chameleon.
IMG: A view of the dining tent at Oliver’s Camp and
a female buffalo skull and a sausage from the sausage tree
At 15.30 we headed to the dining tents for some drinks before our afternoon game drive and then off we went. We saw a couple of giraffe, one was quite close crossing over the road, a lilac-breasted roller, striped kingfishers (we saw two together which is quite rare). They feed on bugs which is why we saw them in a tree. We saw a brown snake eagle, black shouldered kites (we saw a few of them while we were out), red-billed oxpeckers (you normally only see yellow-billed in Tarangire), pygmy falcon (the smallest bird of prey) and we were checking all possible trees that a leopard might use but no luck finding a leopard.
We saw our first steinbuck – they are the favourite food for cheetah, although a marshal eagle will also eat them. We saw a well camouflaged plover, we could see it’s red legs as it was sneaking off into the grass – most have youngsters or eggs at the moment but we didn’t see any young ones. We also saw warthogs, lots of ostrich (two of the females were chasing each other), several herds of impala (lots of male and lots of female groups), more giraffe, dik diks, hartebeest, Thomson’s gazelle and Heiko saw a slender mongoose – it was too quick for us to take a photo though.
Lots more birds, we saw a black-bellied bustard, tawny eagle (similar to snake eagle but they have feathers all down their legs) – we saw three in three different trees, possibly a family – male and female adults and an immature. Two ground hornbills took off in flight as we approached, orange-bellied parrots were at the top of a huge baobab tree, and we saw a steppe eagle almost landing on a kori bustard, the kori bustard was not happy and was ‘barking’ afterwards as it walked away.
We noticed leopard footprints so started to follow them, then we saw two drag lines which eventually led us to a hyena den. We first saw a mother with two puppies then saw another two adults. We heard some guineafowl making an alarm call so went to investigate and found another steppe eagle flying about, so still no leopard.
There were really gorgeous colours in the sunset as we made our way back to camp – not far from camp we saw a large herd of impala so I hope the animals are coming back into the park. It was a quick shower and then off to the campfire and we met two other guests, Natalie and Jeff (from Australia but living in London). It was our first night at the campfire since there was too much rain yesterday. We had a delicious dinner but I was sat close to a light and the bugs were all gathering above me – now and again one would land in my lap or even on my head (which happened a few times actually).
So happy to get to bed now, very very tired! Lala salama!