All day yesterday I kept thinking how fortunate I had been. I was getting a private tour of Tarangire National Park with my own guide using a modified Toyota Landcruiser. It was fairly ridiculous really, and definitely wasteful, but here I was about 120 kilometers south of Arusha, Tanzania seeing elephants, giraffes, lions, and so many more incredible animals.

The whole trip could have easily fallen apart. In the days leading up to the trip, my hosts had expressed doubts they could organize a classroom and hands on seminar of slit lamp and ophthalmoloscopy skills. My contact at the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Kesi Naidoo, had left it up to me. If I wanted to go, I could take the chance. If I wanted to back out and reschedule, no problem. I decided to go.

When planning the trip the idea was to arrive late on a Saturday and have Sunday off. Monday through Wednesday I would teach the workshop and head out Thursday to Nairobi and back to the United States. If I was going to have a day off in Northern Tanzania I would make the best of it. I researched things to do on Trip Advisor and found the Arusha National Park. But as I looked into it further, I realized that it was a rainforest park similar to the area around Kakamega where I was now living. If I headed a bit further south, I would be in the high plains area with the opportunity to see animals I had never seen before. Tarangire was not one of the more well known national parks like the Serengeti but it was highly rated, and had a large population of elephants living in the wild.

While traveling in Africa, I have found that it is sometimes hard to know what a fair price is for goods and services. It is a two-tiered system. If I use the local buses called matatus, for example, I can travel a 100 kilometers or more for $2 or $3. I often do this and enjoy it. If for some reason I decide to hire a driver, say I have a lot of luggage to carry, the same trip might cost $40 to $60. When in non-tourist regions like Kakamega I can get a fine meal for $3 to $5 but it might cost two or three times the price in a tourist destination. When scheduling this safari without any local knowledge or contacts, I relied on the internet for information. I had determined that $315 to $400 for a full day trip to the Tarangire National Park was the going rate. It’s a lot I know. But the trip included round trip transportation 120 kilometers each way, a guide with knowledge of the region and wildlife, lunch, and park fees which are $60 a day and go toward preserving this beautiful natural resource. Through Trip Advisor I booked the trip for $315, which was the least expensive of the three I had checked. I decided to go all out on my one day off.

Yesterday morning I was greeted by Anthony of Backpacker’s Safari Company. “Where is everyone else?” I asked. I was expecting a tour vehicle full of other people with a free seat or two available. “You are the only one,” he said. “Okay, let’s go,” I said, astonished that this was really happening.

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Anthony of Backpacker’s Safari Company in Arusha, Tanzania. By the way, you can see the photograph a little bit larger if you click on them.

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In Arusha we stopped and picked up our box lunches. These boys were happy to get their picture taken in downtown Arusha. We headed south about 120 kilometers which took an hour and a half.

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The road is excellent from Arusha to Tarangire National Park. We passed through areas with many Maasai settlements, although many Maasai migrate so the settlements can change. We stopped at the Tarangire National Park headquarters where Anthony purchased the permit to enter.

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The Love Bird

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These giraffes were kind enough to line up for me.

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This large bull elephant was digging in the river bed for moisture. This part of the river appeared dry but I could see the ground was quite moist just a few feet down.

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Here I am, enjoying my private tour. The top of the extended Toyota Landcruiser lifts up to give an excellent and shaded view of the surroundings. We saw a cheetah but I was not able to get a good picture of it. The cheetah was lounging under a tree, but got up when an elephant approached. Anthony said it was very rare to see a cheetah in that area.

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Anthony said, “Look, see how the elephants take care of their baby.” The young elephant was sleeping peacefully.

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There was a wide variety of wildlife to see as we trekked around the dirt roads in the park.

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I am trying to remember the name of this bird. Anyone have any ideas?

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A Baobab tree. They can live up to 500 years, Anthony said, and attract a lot of wildlife.

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Part of the river had standing or even running water. I noticed that the wildebeasts and zebras hang out together. Anthony said that the wildebeasts rely on the zebras to find water because they do not remember where it is.

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We saw several ostriches.

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Baboons.

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We stopped around noon to eat our boxed lunch, and this was the view.

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The Tanangire National Park is known mostly for its elephant migration. Anthony said that during the rainy season in March, April, and May when water is plentiful, the elephants leave to other areas around Tanzania.

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Mother with calf.

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There were lots of wildebeasts, which Anthony called wildebeasties.

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A pride of lions. It seemed that most of the tour vehicles were looking for lions. We were early and noticed these lions just after lunch. As we left the area we were stopped five or six times as the other guides wanted to deliver on the lion viewing experience.

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Lots of flirting going on.

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As we left the area, I snapped a photo of this Maasai compound. To the right is a circular area, bounded by a brush fence, where they put their cattle or goats at night.

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This hastily snapped photo was on the road leading back to Arusha. These 12 to 14 year old Maasai boys were preparing for circumcision in the coming week. Anthony drove me back to Arusha. I have him a 40,000 Tanzanian Shilling tip, which amounts to $20 and was the recommended amount. He dropped me off at the local transportation center and I caught a matatu to Moshi to begin my work Monday morning.

In fact, it is Monday morning now and I am waiting for a local optometrist to pick me up.

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