Archive for January, 2022

East Africa, Part 18: Tarangire.

Friday, January 21st, 2022

Lunch! We stopped at a rest stop with a group of monkeys. We had to make a concerted effort to keep the monkeys from grabbing our food.

Nip-nops in full effect.

Festive junk also on display.

Cute baby plotting shenanigans.

While no one was paying attention, an orange was stolen.

After spending most of my lunchtime growling and pretending to be big and threatening to protect my sandwich, we headed back out for more sightings. And get ready, because I accomplished the impossible. I took good photos of not one, but TWO lilac-breasted rollers.

Gaze. Gaze at those photos and rejoice.

There was a hammerkop bird hanging out on some bird-poop-covered rocks.

Then we saw a sausage tree with a lioness in it. Bonus: She had a tracking necklace on.

She was pretty far away so I used my extremely difficult technique of holding up the binoculars to my phone to get a picture.

These I did photoshop a bit because the original looks like this:

And old dark giraffe drinking in the position where they are most in danger.

An impala looking like it’s walking across water.

Birds looking through herbivore poop for snacks.

A family of elephants coming down to the riverbed to drink. Look at the baby! He’s at least 300 pounds but he looks so cute and wee.

Far away in the distance there was a tree with another long-crested eagle.

I got such an epic cramp in my arm squished down in my seat doing my binocular technique only to realize when editing that the FREAKIN’ CREST WAS BLOCKED BY A BRANCH. The No Crested Eagle. I included the original pics along with the photoshopped ones.

I helped that I saw a black-backed jackal shortly after. It soothed my aching arm to see him trotting by.

A Von der Decken’s Hornbill.

Who went up into a tree to spend time with its mate.

Look at these red-and-yellow barbets. First of all, so pretty. So fashion. Secondly, they cock their heads to the ground to listen for grubs and bugs which looks cute as hell. It looks like they’re saying “Pardon?”

And now your doctor-recommended dik-dik of the day.

Big ole lizard. Real big. In the reeds by the river. Looked like it would be delicious grilled. Not ashamed to say it.

A pair of black-backed jackals doing whatever it is they do.

This is a great example of authentic East African clothing. A woman buys about four meters of a patterned wax resist fabric called ankara. She makes the majority of it into a skirt and with what remains she makes a headdress.

The variety of ankara fabric is amazing. I saw piles of it and never the same pattern twice. And a lot of the pieces are geometric, which I loved.

The schools are two small for all the kids so the older kids go in the morning and the younger kids go later in the day. Why that order? Well, hyenas are active in the early morning so the kids that are too big to be prey go earlier. Africa! Different to the US!

And finally, the sun setting with the Great Rift Valley. There are storks, there are guinea fowl, there are monkeys. It’s so awesome.

Coming up: The island of Zanzibar.

East Africa, Part 17: Tarangire.

Friday, January 7th, 2022

More Tarangire! This will be a very bird-centric post. We start with a profoundly crappy picture of a long-crested eagle. It is an extremely serious-looking bird and that intensity is ruined completely by its dinky mohawk. A fleepy-floopy mohawk which looks vaguely like this.

And I got some terrible backlit pictures of this eagle. Enjoy.

I made all the shots I took like this into a collage.

And here are some professional shots I found online. I made them into a collage as well.

Why did I take this picture? I must have had a reason. Was it the bird in the center? It’s a well-composed picture so I’m including it even though its original intent is gone.


Dik-dik (smallest antelope in Africa) with an elephant (largest land mammal in the world) in the background.

Weaver bird weaving!

This picture has a bee-eater in the center. I zoomed in so you could see more betterer.

Its spouse came over with a moth in its mouth, swiped the moth back and forth against a branch to rip off its wings and ate it. That was pretty cool to see. Then they sat together.

Waterbuck! You can see the toilet ring pattern clearly here.

Is it truly one of my Africa posts if I don’t include an atrocious picture of a lilac-breasted roller? I could photoshop them to bump up the contrast and the color but I would deny my true garbage photography skills.

We stopped at a camp that had a lookout point of a river and we got to see an enormous group of buffalo making their way there to drink.

They had a good example of how slowly baobabs grow.

One of the people working at the camp said, “Would you like to see an owl?” I’ve had problems controlling myself when I see owls in the past so I tried not to dry-heave with excitement.

He walked me past the bungalows, I was taken to a tree and there he was. He was small and the lighting wasn’t great but I could see his tiny perfection.


He was a wee little scops owl with wee little scops horns and he was sleeping and I seriously could have stood there all day and bask in his wee little preciousness but the same guy said, “We have bats too. Want to see them?” YES. YES I WOULD.

He took me to a different tree and way up were sleeping bat packets! Fruit bats!

We also saw a squirrel. I did not get terribly excited about that. No disrespect to squirrels, but after owls and bats everything seems banal.

Out of nowhere, ground hornbills showed up! The super-rare ground hornbills! They’re super-rare because they lay their eggs right on the ground (hence the name) and everyone trods on them. So I’m not empathetic to their plight because that’s just silliness, but it was still cool to see them a ways off.

We saw some monkeys sorting through poo for delicious treats like seeds.

Vultures eating a dead snack.

The red dirt on the tree is where elephants scratched themselves.

I haven’t even made it to lunch so in the next post, lunch and beyond.

East Africa, Part 16: Tarangire.

Sunday, January 2nd, 2022

Remember how sad I was when I had to say goodbye to my gecko bff who lived behind the mask? I started my day with a new friend!

I’ve found whenever you eat outside in Africa you will have several companions gunning for some of your meal. This breakfast was no different.

A termite mound! They are big. I had The Moomins stand next to it for scale.

I got so excited at seeing this stork with a red beak or something. Spoiler: It’s a mop resting against a branch.

We had to stop at the gate to Tarangire Reserve and I saw a lilac-breasted roller. I love them. Even if the picture looks like an actual pile of crap (as this one does) I will always post it.

There were a different kind of sentient mango bird, this time they had black heads.

Daily dik-dik! Today focusing on that back end with those fabulous spindly legs.

See this bird? Isn’t it a pleasant-looking bird? Well, it’s called a butcherbird and that’s because it impales its food on thorn bushes and barbed wire for later. So sweet!

“Tarangire” means “River of warthogs” but the national park is most well-known for its elephants. I was there for one major thing and that is the baobabs. I had only seen one or two baobabs by themselves and this place is covered with them. They are a fantastic tree. Each one grows differently from the next. You know how when you see a whole grove of oak trees of the same age, they all look similar? Baobabs do not.

Fun facts about baobabs:

– BIG. Real big. Biggest, actually. Not tallest, those are California Redwoods. But biggest.

– OLD. Real old. These were over 1,000 years old. Baobabs can live to be 3,000 years old.

– SLOW. Real slow. There’s a picture coming up that illustrates how slowly they grow and mature.

The bottom parts are all chewed up because elephants come by and rip off bark and rub on the trees. There is a myth that baobabs have a lot of water in their trunks but they actually die and their hollow hulls collect rainwater which people and animals can drink. But the baobab itself doesn’t retain water.

To get a sense of scale, please note the monkey on that branch off to the upper left.

I mentioned the strangling fig in a previous post. Here’s one in action. It’s dropping roots down to the ground and building a whole structure around the baobab. In 100 years it will have killed the baobab and assumed its shape.

My favorite baobab pic.

Baobabs are thought to disappear overnight but what actually happens is they die and dry out from the inside and then one day they collapse.

Even though Tarangire is known for its elephants we didn’t see a ton of them. We did see this one. Our guide Augustine said the one without a tail had it ripped off as a child by a lion because they’re the only ones strong enough to pull that off (no pun intended).

Pile of herbivore dung with a slender mongoose. The poop gets rifled through by everyone because there’s always undigested seeds and edible treats to be found.

A yellow-necked spurfowl.

A Von der Decken’s Hornbill. The males and females are differently colored. This is a male or a female. One or the other, I’m sure of that.

Gnus going for a dip.

And then we saw it. The Moomins grew up in Africa, she organized tours, went on tours constantly, but she never saw the other thing Tarangire is known for – lions in trees. Lions don’t normally climb trees, that a leopard trait. Here they do, but only female lions because the males are too heavy. And we saw one.

I must warn you, I was so blown away by this that I took a ton of photos and I couldn’t decide which ones I liked best so I’m posting a bunch of them. Plus a tree that a woodpecker did some serious work on.

A solitary lioness hanging out in a tree. Doesn’t look like much, but it’s highly unusual.

Final pic for today is a cloudy sky with a pond.

Coming up: More Tarangire.