Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Africa #5: Finally, Animals!

Colobus monkey, Arusha, Tanzania

Today was a day to be spent in the Arusha National Park, situated just about 30 minutes drive from the hotel. It was grey, misty and lightly raining when we got up, and stayed that way until early afternoon. Still, the wildlife didn’t seem to notice too much, nor did the Tanzanians who were all piling into the local market on what was a Saturday morning.

Arusha NP is quite hilly and lush in parts, drier in others. Entering from the gate we did (south east) then right away we saw a few giraffes, some Cape buffalo and a herd of zebras, all happily co-existing on a lightly tree-dotted area off to the north. Naturally, we took pictures, ignoring the little voice in our heads that was saying “they are a long way away still and you are here for another 9 days – chill out”. In a day spent bumping around the park, we also added to that total an entire herd of giraffes, comprising more than 25 animals ranged across the hillside (and no, I don’t know if herd is the correct collective noun for giraffes, OK?) and a number of birds including egrets and other stuff the names of which now completely escapes me. Hmm, should buy a book: “Ladybird Book of Tanzanian Wildlife You Have Specifically Seen”, would do the trick.

Lunch was a picnic which we ate sat alongside a lake where some other tourists were out in canoes. It didn’t escape my notice that a pamphlet at the park entrance said there were hippos in this particular lake and therefore “some caution was advised”. Nope, not sure canoes and hippos are a good mix myself but hey, what’s travel without a little risk, eh, especially if I am not the one taking them?

Highlight of the day would have to be several sightings of colobus monkeys high up in the trees. These are beautiful black and white creatures that are a couple of feet long from head-to-toe, but with seemingly oversized white tails. Very graceful-seeming creatures, happily tucked up there eating bits of trees and really not paying much notice to the sounds of an idling diesel Land Cruiser parked below. However, they are a bit tricky to photograph a) because they are smallish and like to hide in trees and b) are black-and-white and have to be shot against a bright grey sky. The above is about the best I could manage, given the selection we had to choose from!

Back to the hotel for dinner, memory dump (camera’s, not mine) and sleep. All-in-all, a good way to begin.

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