Tanzania March 2010 – with Pip McGarry, MIWAS friends and my mum and sister;

5th March to the 13th we took the opportunity of going to Tanzania…

Southern Tanzania driving adventure!

We all knew that this was going to be a big adventure as for Pip’s safari guides who usually do Botswana were taking us on the roads to discover Southern Tanzania for the first time!

We started our venture by arriving in Das Es Salaam, it was so hot! Felt like we stepped into a microwave thats the only way I can describe it, so humid and no air but everything looked golden! Then to travel on to Selous National Park, then onto Rufiji River Camp with game drives each day. Then went on to visit the Ruaha region staying at the Ruaha River Lodge, sadly the last place before driving back to Dar.

In between we also went to Mikumi Game Reserve, it was incredible, such a shame as we only had about an hour as we were behind with time as we had 3 punchers!…yes 3 punchers lol!! I told you it was adventure! I think only 1 jeep escaped a puncher but our jeep had 2 and the other has 1…luckily the locals in the village helped us out. Amazing to see their work shops!

The Selous National Park is the largest protected game area in Africa, being 3 times the size of the Serengeti, but with far fewer visitors. That is why it looked so natural and the wildlife and birdlife in such an abundance! The locals looked like that had not seen Europeans before as we become the tourist attraction, it was amazing to experience this, also to notice how fast word spread as the villagers came out in their droves. Children waving at us, the children abroad are so adorable, so happy with beautiful faces with huge smiles glowing! We were looking forward to getting lots of good reference material and ideas for paintings, and we sure got that and more as the adventure was incredible, so many moments and encounters and travelling allowed us to see such a landscape variation, as Dar, it was so tropical, full of palm trees, luscious green leaves to mountainous with incredible views then onto seeing lots of cobble stones which got larger! Like large cobble stones dotted around. One of the pics I have attached shows you how many are across the mountains and hills within, like they had been pebble dashed or just carefully placed.

Some of the rocks looked like that had been weathered into amazing shapes; one looked like a face. Our guide Stanley called this rocky area, which we found incredible, ‘Rock City’ . We covered such a spance of area, not even the photos show the vastness.

I love Baobab trees, one of the pics you will see my fav pic I took, this tree looked so ancient such character and had an essence of fantasy and magic, like a Tim Burton creation, was quite something!

We saw so much and had so many things happen during this venture.

At Vuma Hills there was no water or electricity so we had to venture on early and hope we could book in early on the next place.

Even the amount of insect we saw and heard, some sounded like sonar, that came in waves.

Like I mentioned above, the birdlife was in abundance, loved the amount of the smaller birds too including the red bishop, a stunning illumines bird so tiny. This one was around by the hippo and croc pool on some grasses and bull rushes. We also saw the Jackson’s Widow bird which was so elegant and even put on a lovely display dance for us.

We had quite an experience with a couple of elephant families, one (think this will stick with most of us) where we stopped for lunch in the Ruaha game reserve under this group of trees for shade and one side was giraffes which we were happily admiring whilst eating lunch, but what we didn’t realise was what was on the other side in the distance….as we were finishing up and taking turns having a bushy bushy, I heard my sister call elephant, then the next minute Mike called out elephant all get in jeeps now just as the last person needed to go for a bushy, moi lol…so we all jumped in the jeeps! One of the jeeps drove out in another direction, which was suddenly being followed/chased by a charging protective mother elephant with her 3 young ones following close behind.

She was charging for Pips jeep and she meant business.

It all happened so quick! We were all clicking away on our cameras, one of the pics I have included in the collection of pics in the slide show.

What we had worked out quite quickly was that we were unknowingly were having  a lunch break in-between her and a hidden water hole that she wanted to get too with her young.

The whole experience was pretty fast but what was incredible to watch was the protection that the young female had for her young.

The second encounter with the elephants was a group of 2 adults and 2 babies that had come from the river and the adults across the road and was trying to keep their young hidden. Tut the baby was just out of sight and the elephants doing so well keeping her from our sights, just disguised by the high grasses but eventually they would see them across safe on the other side. We all sat there as quiet as mice excited to whether we would get a glimpse of the very young baby elephant.

Eventually we got a glimpse through one of their legs but just watching their protection and togetherness was quite amazing. It was amazing to hear the rumbles which came from the elephants after they had disappeared through the vegetation on the other side.

I did have few experiences with things like nearly having a gecko land on my head in the darkness of the night whilst trying to sleep….funny after…. nature is an amazing thing!

Whilst showering I noticed I had blood worms on me coming through the water!

On departing from Ruaha the guy told us that black mamba had passed through our camp and that leopard have been known to claw away the straw tops to our lodges haha!

We had a lot of highlights during our trip but one was definitely seeing ‘African Hunting Dog’ also called ‘Painted Dog’ and Wild dogs especially as they are so rare, critically endangered, so it was quite a privilege for us all. And to see them twice!….we even had lunch with them….(well in shade watching them)…they were such characters, just like watching our domestic dogs play and chew on each others ears and making little whines to one another. It was so hot that a couple of them even had a play in the muddy water hole. The others trying to cool off in ditches where they would scrap at the soil and all lay in a bundle together, wonderful to watch these dogs, such a beautiful dog too, I find it so hard to understand how people mistake them for hyenas.

This trip is where I got the reference photos to draw from. Where we saw the dogs was great for me as there was wild basil growing in the area and it really did add to the drawings, both in the foreground and background.

Another highlight was seeing lion in Tanzania as they were so much more wilder! As one does in the jeeps, she starting to stalk us! It was incredible as she was stalking through the grass fixed on us.

The boat ride was great at the Rufiji river camp, the river was like a mile pond so still. There was loads of holes in the cliff edge of the river banks, where the bee eaters and kingfishers were nesting.

I must say that the boat ride was another highlight, especially when it rained, it was so refreshing, we even had show of a rainbow, was beautiful.

So many birds among the river and banks, an array of colours as they all fly around.

There was a wave of yellow as the weaver fly across in their droves!

I have to say, we had a great lot in our jeep, thanks to them (my mum, sis, Wendy, Steve and Nick) as they made this trip too. We had a lot of laughs and Steve and Nick came out with some classics!…

Thanks to our guide/driver Stanley, he was full of great helpful information, even down to why there are broken trees in the roads; to let you know there is an accident ahead…

Well I hope you enjoyed reading about my Tanzania experience so much to say and remember. This adventure was a true adventure and will stay with me forever. It was quite special!