Arusha, it has often been said, is all East Africa in microcosm. This beauteous park embraces grasslands, one of them the Serengeti Ndogo, the little Serengeti; the dramatic Ngurdotu crater too, Ngorongoro in miniature; there are sensuous evergreen forests up the flanks of the spent volcano; and the Momella lakes, the smaller freshwater, the larger alkaline, echoing the great lakes of the Rift.
In Serengeti Ndogo today we could not have been luckier. The plains zebras were frisky, chasing in circles, the teen males playfully biting one another's shoulders, the foals looking on bemused. The Maasai giraffes stared down at the zebras, ashamed, I like to think, at such frivolous behaviour. The African buffalo were almost drawn to take part, pointing in unison at the happy zebras, half in surprise, half in envy at their glee. The warthogs, unaffected, went about their snout-heavy business, their piglets trotting after them on quick little hooves.
|iPhone Masai giraffe in Arusha|
In the forest there were blue monkeys, slow and deliberate in their movements, their coats the dark grey blue of dry slate. Not far beyond were mantled colobus, the loveliest of East African monkeys, snowy tassel tails dangling from the leafy branches.
By the freshwater lake we had lunch, lines of little grebes and southern pochard on the water, and sacred ibis probing the muddy rush-bed by us. At the alkaline lake, lining its shore like a flaming ribbon, were thousands of lesser flamingos, a handful of gangly greaters with them. Blacksmith lapwings stood at the shore and past the beaujolais legs of the flamingos swam Cape teal in little flotillas.
Giraffes, bushbuck, common waterbuck, warthogs, zebras, all to our delight appeared in the brush and grass by the roadside, and the the sky was busy with hundreds of barn swallows, with black saw-wings and with plain martins.
There was much else besides; too much to tell this late at night. But there were no cats. Yet. Neither lion nor cheetah lives in Arusha and the leopards are lost in the dark forest. Tomorrow though we travel to Tarangire, home of elepants.
|iPhone African buffalo in the magnificence of Arusha|