Tarangire: The baobab trees and Ibong Adarna

Day 3 – The baobab trees of Tarangire (photos by Robin Kuijs)

Baobab trees. In the age without Internet on an island with only six towns, as a child, the only thing I knew about baobab trees was from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s well-loved book The Little Prince. During my early months in the Netherlands, when I would spend almost the entire day watching television, I saw how it actually looked like in one of the shows about meerkats in Madagascar. It is in Tanzia that I finally saw the legendary tree.

Upon entering the Tarangire National Park, one would be welcomed by a billboard that says “Tarangire: Home of the Baobab Trees”.

When I saw the baobab, I became emotional. This was my childhood story unfolding before my eyes in the slowly waking dawn of Tarangire. For the Maasai however, the baobab tree symbolizes the wrath of the Gods, who planted the trees upside down, with the roots of top that’s why no leaves are growing on it.

On our first day at the park, we had a late game drive so we were driving through the sunset on the way to our next lodge. I couldn’t put into words how beautiful it was – a fiery ball of red sinking behind the baobab trees.

I watched a movie once about a couple who decided to chase the sunset all over the world. Would that be a selfish journey for me to take?

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Distress call
When one sees a herd of elephants, flapping their ears, stamping the ground, trumpeting a deafening sound and heading towards your vehicle, one would panic, no matter how much one is told that escaping animals would choose the path of less resistance.

My heartbeat was racing fast but my eyes couldn’t tear themselves away from an action that I’ve only seen on tv – a herd of elephants running away from the mighty Lion King to protect their calves. Even after they have safely crossed to the other side of the road, my heart was still palpitating. What an amazing gift after only a couple of hours game drive.

We saw a lot of zebras, Thomson gazelles, baboons and buffalos in Tarangire but the national park is home to a large number of elephants. It has in fact the most concentration of wild life outside the Serengeti because there is a constant supply of water from the Tarangire River.


Have you ever seen a blue-balled monkey before?


Lots of action in the wild.


A lone spring buck refuses to move despite the number of cameras pointed at him.


These Thompson gazelle are so cuddly I wanted to take them home together with the dikdiks.


A kind of wild guinea fowls heading to the river.


We were constantly stopped by herds of zebras crossing the road.


The lilac-breasted roller, which reminded me of Ibong Adarna.

Finding Ibong Adarna
Ibong Adarna is a Filipino epic about a prince who had to find a colourful bird to save his father and their kingdom. Honestly, I don’t remember much of the story but I remember how beautiful the bird was. And I found it at Tarangire (well Robin did), resting on a branch in all its beauty. It is called the Lilac-breasted roller and can usually be found in woodlands and savannas. It is not as regal as the one mentioned in the story but have you ever seen a bird more fitting?

I don’t know why but somehow this trip has taken me back to the times of my life when I was happiest, to the places I’ve left a long time ago – my childhood and nature.

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Just as we were leaving Tarangire, a few kilometers from the gate, a pack of lions decided to show themselves to us, the lions that we have been looking for all morning. There were about 12 of them, the lionesses leading the pack to cross the road while the cubs are still playing farther behind them. But we were not alone in basking in that scene. In fact, there were at least 10 cars lined up on the road photographing the lions. Some have tele lens longer than me, others have selfie stick. Either way, seeing too many people gathered around a small pack of lions somehow lessen the excitement. So we moved on.

Our search for the wild life in Tarangire was short. I wish we had stayed at least a day more, spend more time finding that elusive leopard. But there was a paradise waiting for us farther in the north of the country. And that’s what we came here for.