The road to becoming an Asilia Guide: Tarangire Views
By Stuart Butler
When I was told that the Asilia training camps were going to take place deep in the remote south of Tarangire National Park in Tanzania I was filled with excitement. This was a park I had heard so much about but never had the chance to visit. Tarangire, so I was told, was a place of centuries old grand baobab trees, enormous herds of migrating wildebeest and zebra, tree clambering lions of rich honey colours and the densest population of elephants in Tanzania.
By all accounts it sounded wonderful. The problem was that it turned out that its abundance turned out to be very seasonal and I was going at the wrong season. The wildebeest and zebra would be chewing the grasses somewhere far from the park, the lions would be almost impossible to spot and the most common creature by far would be the evil testse fly an animal which has single handily probably done more to protect great swathes of African wilderness than anything else. The Testse fly might be small but it adores blood. Preferably your blood and the blood of your cattle. Not just is the bite of a testse fly very painful and their presence very annoying but they also carry sleeping sickness which is meant that for hundreds of years people have avoided living or grazing cattle anywhere where the testse fly lives in abundance and that has resulted in space for wildlife.
On hearing all this my expectations started to drop. These weren’t helped when the driver who picked me up at Kilimanjaro airport simply laughed when I said I was heading here for a month.
Sometimes though arriving somewhere with low expectations is a good thing as I had built up the idea of a purely vegetarian safari in my mind. We hadn’t been driving through the park for more than half-an-hour though when I began to suspect that peoples gloom was misplaced. Instead of lifeless savannah I was gazing with wide eyes over a vast lush green swamp ringed by ruler straight acacia trees and tubby baobabs and we were meeting elephants by the dozen. In fact, there appeared to be more elephants here in Tarangire than I had ever seen in any other East African protected area. And not just were there elephants but on the drive to the camp we also saw three lions lounging like very self-satisfied lizards in a tree (this is one of the few places in Africa where lions climb trees), a serval, which was a new one for me and a chirping, squawking cacophony of birds slapped in bright colours.
Things might not be so bad after all I decided and then we swung into Little Olivers Camp and I got to see my home for the next month. Suddenly things were looking very rosy indeed. Tarangire in the rains. Well don’t mind if I do!
Look out for another blog update in a few days time.
Follow Stuart Butler on the road to becoming an Asilia Guide
Part 2 – Tarangire Views
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