As we rolled through the gates to Lake Manyara National Park with a little bit of excitement and as we didn’t really know what we should expect. Didnt take more than a few minutes before we encountered the first couple of animals – a flock of baboon´s using the road as their own hangout place. They didn’t really care that we came in the car on the road but were rather just looking at us not really willing to move. As the car came closer they probably decided that they were not in the mood to be hit by a car this particular day and ran off to the side of the road staring at us.
As we were visiting Tanzania in the month of February which is the end of the dry season before the seasonal rains starts in March, the landscape in the park was dry and arid. Some trees lacked their leaves and most of the grass and vegetation that was exposed to the merciless sun looked more gloomy and brownish then lush and green. The ground was dry and cracks ran through the dirt like open wounds in long stretches. A miniature Grand Canyon on African soil. The whole landscape was thirsty for water.
We drove on through the desolate landscape not seeing much animals as most of them had drawn themselves closer to the lake which was shrinking day by day due to the scorching sun that evaporated the water. We stopped at a lookout point over the plain to see if we could spot any animals on the distance and encountered a small monkey just sitting in a tree all by himself with no flock around just as he had decided to take a time out to reflect over his own life in solitude. He was so deep in his own thoughts that he didn’t even give us a look. Maybe his mate had left him for a more beautiful and succesful male? He looked sad and troubled but who were we to interfere in his mind?
As Rasta stopped at one of the dedicated places for a pause and toilet break someone had placed the skull of a water buffalo on a termite pile which kind of symbolized the arid landscape as we felt it even on our own skin with the sun right above us. In the national parks there are dedicated areas where you can stop and get out of the car to eat for example as it is not allowed to step out of the car just anywhere due to the fact that these are wild animals in their own habitat and not a drive through a zoo park. Stepping out of the car or out of the dedicated area would be just asking for an accident to happen. However what puzzled me is that the dedicated area had no walls or and obstacles that would hinder any animal from entering. And there was enough bushes and vegetation for animals to hide. Maybe they are using animals own defence and use urine form larger animals to “mark” a territory?
We drove on and left the open arid plain for a little while going in to more dense vegetation and found another safari car that had stopped in the middle of nowhere. Rasta knows that this means animal somewhere and most likely the famous tree climbing lion which is easiest to spot in Lake Manyara. He looked for a few seconds around and then pointed out the lion. “- There on the tree, two of them” You could hardly see them as they were far into the vegetation but I used full zoom on my 18-200 lens so I managed to spot them and snapped off a few exposures with the camera.
Now there is no specific species of lions that climb trees as they all can do it. It is just the fact that in Lake Manyara they are easier to spot in trees due to the bad vegetation on the ground that protects them and gives them shelter so they decided to climb up in the trees instead.
We drove on and came back to our old path that we had passed about an hour ago and spotted a giraffe standing and watching the distant far just a few meters from the car. Yet another animal that didnt´t even give us a reaction that we saw him. He just kept on staring into the distant and as we drove on and came to a new clearing where we could see the large plain again we spotted more giraffes that slowly were walking across the plain. It looked quite sad with these long creatures slowly walking across the plain that had hardly any trees with leaves that they could munch on. Moving slowly as out of exhaustion with their long and thin legs in a very slow and trotting phase.
As the day grew longer we had suddenly spent some three hours driving around in the park without really seeing any elephants. My wish for the safari was that we would see a big elephant bull up close. Unfortunately the two we spotted was hiding among the trees keeping themselves out of the sun and our eyes. We saw an elephant ass here and an elephant ear there but never really up close or near the car. We spotted more monkeys of different species in flocks playing and sometimes look at us and mostly at my camera as the auto focus is using a small light beam to focus correctly. It looked like the light beam fascinated the monkeys here and there trying to figure out what was going on and what that light beam that appeared and disappeared so often was.
In the end we never saw any real elephant up close and the hippos were in a far distance together with the water buffalos as the lake and the swamps had dried to a smaller portion of what it usually is. It was dry season. The rains would start in a few weeks and go on for a few weeks making the whole area come alive again.
We were heading out of the Lake Manyara national park when we came across a larger flock of baboons hanging out and drinking by the small water flow by the road. Some younger baboons were playing catch while the adult were keeping an eye suspiciously at us at the same time as they hardly cared. This seemed to be a park mainly filled with monkeys and apparently mostly with baboons as we saw them everywhere as we entered and left the park. We left the park and drove back towards Mto Wa Mbu where the baboons had practically take over the major road as they were moving on from the park. I was curious how people were living together so close to them cause if you look at a baboons teeth they are huge and sharp not to mention the jaw pressure. Rasta told us that they usually goes along just fine but that it happens that they sometimes attack children and women. Those they see as more weak and smaller than themselves. Kind of like a dog that if they scent you are scared of them they take the upper hand. Otherwise they don’t really care.
This was the land of baboons and humans had moved into their territory.
We filled up with some supplies in the village before heading back towards the park again and climbed up a long hill on our way to the tent camp where we were gonna spend the next couple of nights. On the way up Emmason stopped so we could get a full view over Lake Manyara National Park. It was quite a sight where you actually could see how the lake had pulled itself back and was waiting to fill up again by the coming rains.