Arrival in Tarangire is, as clichéd as is it to say, a step back to another Africa. The grass is tall, following the short rains, and the acacias and baobabs green. They are noisy too, with northern white-crowned shrikes, white-headed buffalo-weavers, lilac-breasted rollers, yellow-collared lovebirds and a host of other birds, each lovelier than the last. A yellow-necked spurfowl strolls nonchalant across the dust track; impala and common ostrich pant in the trees' shade, waiting for late afternoon's cool to come again before they move.
Still on the move are fat, happy elephants, well fed by the flush of post-rains growth, playful and strong. At first there are one or two of them, then dozens, then dozens more crowding round our jeeps, trunks swaying as they go. Moving too is a posse of nineteen banded mongooses, about their midday mischief in the heat.
As we reach our spectacular lodge, perched on a bluff above the Tarangire river, we gasp at the spectacle of old Africa. Beneath the trees studding the horizon-touching plain are Maasai giraffes and many, many elephants. A Coke's hartebeest lopes ungainly by and overhead a pair of African hawk-eagles circles in lazy loops. All the while a red-chested cuckoo sings above my tent.
And this is but the beginning.
Late in the afternoon, on our first drive in the park, we see far more of the same species and new: crested francolin, red-necked spurfowl, European roller and arrow-marked babbler. Through the long grass in the gilt light of evening trots a black-backed jackal, ears pricked and eyes bright; and with him in our minds we return to the lodge to be escorted to our tents by a guard.
To keep us safe from the lions who wander through camp by night.