Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Savour the moment - a close encounter with an elephant in Tarangire

              By Jules Knocker

We sat and waited in complete silence as the solitary male elephant ambled along between the acacia trees in our direction. Early morning and no other cars around to stress him nor to rob us of the exquisite moment. He was happy to take his time, as he followed a meandering game trail towards the track. We were happy to wait and accept whatever he offered us.
The elephant wandered out and stopped, inches in front of the car, then turned his head calmly, to consider us. His drooping eyes opened wide for a brief moment and the rising sun caught the full beauty of that ruby chestnut colour, usually hidden behind long lashes. He slowly brought up his trunk and reached over to the windscreen. We savoured the moment, almost feeling the rough and the smooth, as he whiffled the end of his trunk over us for a few seconds, before losing interest and slowly scrunching away in the sand – looking for that tasty acacia seedpod or an early morning tipple in the river.

We were all transfixed with the sheer majesty of the moment, to be so close to an elephant that was at peace with itself and its surrounds. To be accepted as part of the landscape and to be included, in such a natural way, in his perambulations was a moment to savour for always.

......And we never got a photograph. Despite the fact that we were holding the cameras all ready, it never crossed our minds to raise them and record the moment. If we had, I suspect we would not have been touched so fundamentally by that brief, magical moment of sharing. While the camera will keep your memories safe for the future, and your memories fade over time, the sad fact is the lens, between your eye and your experience, keeps you at one stage removed from whatever you are photographing at all times.

Sometimes, it is better just to sit and enjoy.

Our Tarangire elephant - the only shot we took, when he was about 40 yards away

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Home on the plains - Katavi National Park

                                                         By Squack Evans

So, after a very long time away from my favorite park in Tanzania, I got to go back, guiding a great couple for 5 days. It was a bit like coming home, as I was the Manager of this camp for a couple of years, although there were lots of differences as well. Chada camp was as I remember it, with a few, small, cosmetic changes and some major reorganisation to the stores and kitchen and back of house. I believe though that major upgrades are scheduled for the camp soon, so we can expect a completely revamped camp in the not-too-distant future.

The park was a lot wetter than the years I spent there and, as a result, the river still had a lot of water; it must have only stopped flowing a few weeks before. Hippo were spread out along the length of the river, as were the crocs. It seemed like the egg-laying had just completed, with rather a lot of crocs guarding nests on the river bank. The storks and pelicans were enjoying plentiful bounty with the catfish and the fish eagles were enjoying a bit of piracy, robbing the hard-working storks of their catch. We saw one congregation of 11 Saddle-bill Storks in one small pool, along with hundreds of Yellow-billed, Marabou and Openbills along the remaining water.

There are some regular pachyderm visitors to the camp and we even had one stroppy, young bull give us a head shake as he took a few steps toward us, when we left the dining tent. They were enjoying the Tamarind fruit falling from the trees in camp and also appeared to enjoy using the tents as rubbing posts!

A pride of 7 lions kept us awake on our second night, as they caused a commotion by murdering one large member of the 800+ strong buffalo herd just outside of camp. Between the hyaena, the buffalo and the lion, there was quite a furore! It did provide us with some fantastic viewing over the next few days, though, with lots of interaction between the lions and other scavengers waiting in the wings (or in the case of the vultures… on the wing!).

The last day found the pride snoozing up in trees on the edge of the floodplain; who says you have to go to Lake Manyara to see tree climbing lions?!