Keep an eye out for the Big 5. That's your assignment for the day when in the bush. The Big 5 - lion, leopard, buffalo, black rhino and elephant - is a term used by safari guides throughout Africa. It actually originates from game hunters who labeled those 5 animals in the level of difficulty in capturing them. Leopards aren't as easy as to catch as let's say a Thomson, better known as Tommy.
For the folks at home, when you're watching the likes of Animal Planet or the National Geographic Channel from the comfort of your own couch, you've got full control over the remote. You can pause it and see a lion in action. Or you can fast forward through the big guy tearing thru the skin of a zebra, stripes hanging out of his mouth. If you're squeamish like me, you find yourself covering your eyes but curiously peeking thru the cracks between your fingers.
Somehow this wasn't the case in Tanzania. With a front row seat (and a manual window that deemed broken whenever you felt you needed to close it), I was surprisingly, grabbing the binoculars to get a closer view of the African wildlife. All too often, we didn't need the binoculars and we might have been, at times, too close for comfort.
Tarangire, our first stop on safari, is the 6th largest national park within Tanzania, located in the Manyara Region. It was about 75 miles southwest of Arusha so we arrived at the park later that morning to check in, have a picnic boxed lunch and gear up for our afternoon game drive. With binoculars and cameras scattered across the backseat, Jackie and I were opening our eyes to the African wilderness just outside the confines of our jeep.
The park is known is for its abundant elephant population and Baobab trees. With over 550 different species within Tarangire National Park, there's more that meets the eye. From zebras, impalas, gazelles, buffalo, ostrich... the list goes on. As a child of the '80's, we didn't have iPads, iPhones, tv headsets or any form of technology to distract us during long roadtrips. Our parents were scrappy and tuned into their creative side. We played a lot of "eye spy" and car BINGO. In hindsight, Jackie and I should have created BINGO cards, like these, to make a game out of it. I spy an impala, 1 point. I spy a wildebeest, 2 points. Leopard, 10 points.
Being in Tarangire during this time of year was optimal for viewing the Big 5, or any animal for that matter. The Tarangire River, for which the park gets its namesake, means "meandering." Animals migrate into the park during the dry season (June-Sept) as the river is a major source of water. It accounts for the largest concentration of animals in Northern Tanzania making it ideal for us safari goers to get our game on and spot live game.
Stay bitten ;)