Amidst the baobabs
Published Saturday magazine, Nation newspaper 7 October 2017
Above: Elephant dwarfed by centuries-old baobab tree near Randilen Wildlife Management Area by Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
Picture Galib Mangat
There are few grand arrivals as memorable as this.
Stopping at the gate of Randilen Wildlife Management Area that hosts the stunning Tarangire Treetops eco-lodge, the rangers excitedly run down the rock kopje hearing our Mama Safari – the Toyota Royal Crown Saloon 1985 model.
“Unataka ona chatu?” ask Goodluck Jackson and Julius Raphael. Of course we want to see the python and we climb up and over the rocks from where we see the enormity of the land – a wide stretch of savannah plains bordering Tarangire National Park that boasts of being the land of baobabs and elephants.
The chatu isn’t immediately visible. Under the hot searing sun the only relief is the gently breeze and the chatu has done well to slither up a tree and stay cool in the foliage. It’s a handsome reptile as our eyes adjust to it, so well camouflaged and resting after swallowing an antelope. For the next few weeks it will remain pretty much in the same place giving visitors wonderful shots.
Driving the 12-kilometre stretch to the lodge, we’re stopped by browsing elephants and more. It’s hard to believe that before the WMA was established this was barren land devoid of wildlife.
No sooner are we at the lodge when the sun begins to sink and in the eventide, colonies of bats fly out like animated ribbons from the hollows of the ancient, humongous baobab at the centre of Tarangire Treetops. The baobab like so many others that dot the Tarangire landscape in Tanzania’s northern safari circuit is more than ten centuries old –handsome, beautiful and stoic.
As the bats vanish into the night for a nocturnal feast of insects, the night sky is ablaze with stars and planets. A few feet away from the baobab, elephants drink their fill at the water hole by the raised deck that doubles up as an infinity pool to swim in.
The eco-lodge is wonderfully eclectic set against a mural of dry savannah colours. A marula tree has shed its fruit by the entrance – if you have watched the hilarious Gods Must Be Cazy – its fruits make a delicious liqueur – and elephants, monkeys and other wildlife get intoxicated munching the fruits.
In the boma around another gigantic baobab we dine on haute-cuisine by a blazing log fire– and then real adventure begins – the night game drive.
For the next hour, Godbless Mamuya our driver guide slowly drives through the African savannah – with nocturnal creatures like the Verreaux’s eagle owl flying low to hunt and the African spring hare aka African kangaroo hoping around with the plains animals everywhere – wildebeest, zebra, giraffes, waterbuck, impalas and the ubiquitous elephants. And in the darkness in the thick green bush, our guide stops to point at the flap-necked chameleon. “When you see a leaf that’s not the same as the others, you know it’s a chameleon.” I try but it doesn’t work for me.
Back at the lodge, the staircase to my abode opens through a trap door that’s perched against – no need to ask – another baobab tree.
Inside, the canvas screen opens to the verandah and the savannah. Dry leaves rustle with impalas and elephants browsing on the trees and shrubs. Inside it’s warm and divine –spacious and sophisticated with ostrich egg shells that double up as soap containers in the shower that’s fed by gravity.
The night passes and the morning sun rises – red from the horizon promising another hot day. Walking up the hill to the dining area, a huge male elephant has returned to the boma where we dined, pulling at the vines around the stockade much to the amusement of the guests watching from a safe distance away. Done with his feast, the mammoth ambles away, leaving his calling card – piles of fresh dung on the ground.
It’s a leisurely start to the day – starting the day with fresh juice from the pulp of the baobab seed that’s rich in Vitamin C and a hearty breakfast. With a picnic packed, we drive out to spend the day in Tarangire National Park driving through sand-rivers and herds of buffaloes and elephants to reach the swamp fed by the river that gives it life –the Tarangire.
Stay at the Tarangire Treetops: www.elewanacollection.com
It’s upmarket in the Randilen Wildlife Management Area that is set aside by the local community as dispersal areas for wildlife and tourist lodges while a section is for livestock grazing. These wildlife migratory corridors are indispensible for wildlife without which the national parks would not survive.
Entry into Tanzanian national parks: firstname.lastname@example.org www.tanzaniaparks.com
Pay by VISA card at park entrance.
Essential in Tanzania – a yellow fever certificate.