Saturday. Feb. 3. 2018
Today, our first full day in Tanzania, I awoke to a loud, animal sound, “Brau, brau, brau, brau, brau, brau, brau!” I didn’t know what it was but found out it was one of the colobus monkeys that hangs around our lodgings, Rivertrees Country Inn.
I got lost looking for the dining room this morning, because we’d arrived late last night. However, I was soon set on the right track and found our table, a long table next to an open area where we could appreciate the wildlife. It reminded me so much of Costa Rica!
Since it was our first morning, our group had an introductory session so we could learn everyone’s names, their passions, and why they came on this trip.
Breakfast was buffet style: there was freshly squeezed juice (including passion fruit!), fresh tropical fruits, breads, jams, cheeses, and an omelet making station where a staff member stood ready to take our orders. Dale had an omelet, I did not. There was enough other food to fill my plate!
Our guide, David, told us the plan for today. We were going to Arusha National Park, along the way perhaps seeing some animals. We would stop at a nice rest area with good bathrooms and a small shop, and displays to read. From there, we would take a hike with an armed guide and have a picnic lunch next to a waterfall. Then we would go for a drive through the park to see animals! We met our drivers, Livingstone and Elias, in the reception gazebo, where we had been greeted last night.
They had jars of cookies – one called “Digestives” and the other was ginger snaps – that were kept in the trucks. These cookies were good for the digestion, we were told, to help us with all the bumping around. There was also a supply of water bottles in each of the vehicles, Toyota Land Cruisers.
The hike was an opportunity to see some animals, but especially the small things, like bugs and flowers. The guide showed us things along the way. Overall, I found it quite taxing and hot – some areas were hilly and I huffed and puffed. A year ago, I thought, I wouldn’t have been so tired from a hike like this. Also, I’d neglected to put on sunscreen and was wearing a blouse with ¾ length sleeves, so my hands and wrists got quite sunburned.
The guide pointed out a bush with small round yellow fruits growing on it. This is a type of apple. In the background, we could see Mt. Kilimanjaro, often shrouded in clouds; like Denali in Alaska, we were told we were lucky to see the mountain so clearly – it was a cloudless, blue sky day!
Before we saw any animals, we came across what the guide told us were giraffe turds! There is actually a way to tell if the turds were from a male or female giraffe – the male turds are slightly pointed on one end; while the female turds are flat on both ends. He picked up a male turd to show us.We soon came to an open field with some acacia trees where we saw our first big animals: giraffes, of course! One was lying down in the field; another was grazing nearby.
We came to a stream that meandered through the landscape. It was a beautiful view!
Dale admiring the landscape. In the background is Mt. Meru.
Near the giraffes was a herd of grazing zebras. A warthog family passed by, their tails held up as they ran! We saw monkeys in trees and a giraffe completely camouflaged by the forest. Skulls of giraffes, monkeys or baboons, antelope and buffalo were displayed on some rocks, which the guide identified for us.
Buffalo and antelope skulls
The sun was hot and I felt the heat. The hike seemed very long, but I didn’t complain, just kept going. The guide stopped to show us a young acacia tree, which was covered with sharp, white, intimidating thorns! He told us that these thorns were to protect the leaves and branches of the growing tree from being eaten by giraffes! Giraffes can only nibble on the very tips, where the thorns are not developed and are soft enough for animals to consume.
The stream became a river and we crossed on a hanging bridge. We saw monkeys camouflaged in the trees.
Finally we reached the waterfall. As we approached, we could hear the gushing of the water and felt a cooling mist. We had to cross the stream to get to the place where we would rest and have lunch.
Sitting on the rocks, feeling the cool mist, was a great relief. I somewhat regretted not having my lunch box, but not too much – it would have been a drag to have to carry it. My cousin, Holly, was sitting near me and offered me some of her lunch – including her hard-boiled egg, which I readily accepted. I could use some protein for the return trip! I peeled the egg and wondered whether it was okay to leave the egg shells – the chicken who laid this egg wasn’t native to this ecosystem. I had decided it was probably okay, but Holly picked up the pieces and put them in her box.
The hike back was quite a bit shorter and cooler, because the path led through some woods. We saw some fragrant jasmine flowers. I never realized they were so small!
Those of us who had lunches waiting for us at the vehicles took them over to the picnic tables to eat. I looked up and saw a couple of baboons who had appeared nearby. There was a young one and a larger one, which I thought was the daddy, but may have been its mama. Suddenly there were more, including a female with a baby clinging to her back.
They must have been attracted by our food – in fact, they may be used to associating human presence with food. Hopefully, people don’t give them anything, although the most daring might come over and try to snatch something! They didn’t do that to us, however.
After lunch, we got back into the Land Cruisers and headed into Arusha National Park, with bumpy dirt roads. This was our first day out, and everything we saw was exciting.
A young waterbuck stopped and stared at us from the trees; its parents – the male with long slightly curved horns, the female without horns – grazed in the open grass nearby.
We saw buffalo, more waterbucks, giraffe and warthog families, baboons in trees, a bushbuck, guinea fowl, and various other bird species.
A waterbuck watches as zebras, giraffes and other waterbucks run toward him, apparently spooked by something.
I never got tired of looking at giraffes. In spite of their ungainly shape, they move gracefully and peacefully.
One way to tell the sex of a giraffe: the females have tufts of hair on top of their ossicones (the protrusions on their heads), while the male’s are flat. The giraffes use a tree like this one to scratch an itch on their necks!
Mother giraffe with calves. When the calves are born, they are six feet tall and then grow one inch per day!
We returned to Rivertrees in the evening in time for dinner.
This building at Rivertrees, where our room was, is called the Farm House. The rooms are situated around a central lounge area, with couches, tables and chairs.