A visit to Mkomazi NP is not exactly among the first choices of those who decide to take a trip to Tanzania, and it is a shame because it hides some surprises.
We went there a few days ago. We left Arusha around 7.30 in the morning heading towards Moshi. The road was lined with cornfields 🌽 and coffee. In the surroundings of Moshi, the green becomes more intense and then returns less luxuriant later: this is testified by the dry and stripped baobabs waiting for a better season.
When the road begins to skirt the Pare mountains, the sisal fields also begin, which continue uninterruptedly to the coast.
In the shadow of the Pare stands Mkomazi.🗻
The entrance gate is decorated with two wooden heads: a black rhino and an oryx, two of the symbolic animals of this park, although for different reasons.
The rhinos 🦏 are found in a dedicated sanctuary with the aim of facilitating their reproduction. It is a fenced area of about 50 square kilometers where these splendid animals struggle not to succumb to extinction.
As soon as you pass the gate you immediately understand that you are in an arid savannah, wild and uncontaminated. A ranger welcomes and accompanies the visit. Gideon, our ranger, or Gido as he prefers to be called, was fantastic. Among the various info he gave us was a list of characteristic animals. Among the antelopes, in addition to the oryx, there are eland, kudu, gerenuk and dik-dik 🦌 to name a few. We also saw something else: giraffes 🦒, an elephant 🐘 hidden in the bush, zebras 🦓 and birds of various shapes. Wildebeest and hippos are completely absent. On the other hand, reptiles abound: pythons, cobras, sand snakes and, of course, black and green mambas. 🐍🐍
The flora is typical of the savannah, with baobabs and acacias, including one that produces a strange rounded green fruit.
Landscape is arid, but very fascinating. The place where you stop for a packed lunch overlooks an artificial lake created ad hoc to quench the thirst of animals in an environment where water is a rarity.
Birds are numerous and would delight birdwatchers. 🦅🦉
The temperature is usually hot or more than hot: we were lucky and had a cloudy day.
In the early afternoon we had a breathtaking experience.
Gido took us to a ranger station, talked to colleagues, and escorted us to what looked like a large cage. A double metal fence hid a precious secret: a pair of adult wild dogs was peering at us from inside. I was petrified. It is very difficult to spot them in the wild and the opportunity to admire them so closely was more unique than rare because the public cannot access this place. Moody, Filippo and I kept walking around to see better and we made a sensational discovery: there were not only mom and dad, but also about twenty puppies of a few months, all lying on top of each other in the shade of a plant to rest peacefully.
African wild dogs are also in danger of extinction and the Tanzanian conservation policy provides for an attempt to repopulate them. The puppies stay with their parents for about three years, then, after a course on how to hunt done by their parents with live animals brought by the rangers, they are put back in the savannah. And there are all twenty, while if they were not born in captivity, survival would have reached a maximum of five or six specimens. They are normally fed with raw meat: a single person can enter the enclosure without the risk of being attacked because the wild dogs recognize his smell.
We had not yet recovered from the emotion when another emotional shock hit us.
The rangers made us get into a rather old, bright green car, and we left for an unknown destination.
Another fence, a guarded gate. It was around 3.30pm, the temperature warmer than in the morning. The car followed the fence and at one point, in a corner of the park with very red earth, we had a second vision. We could not believe our eyes: four black rhinos 🦏🦏🦏🦏 with a cub were walking quietly around the car. Four females for the truth: Lucy, Deborah, Zawadi and Gurumeti. They were waiting for drinking: every day, at four in the afternoon, the rangers give water to these ladies and they, who have a biological clock, every day show up on time for the ritual.
The car is the only one allowed to enter because it is the only one recognized by the rhinos that, in this way, do not load. On the contrary, they approach, smell, you could touch them if it were not dangerous for their health.
The three of us looked dazed. Mkomazi: a dream.
The visit lasted the time to take some photos and also to see a little orphan, Kisima, lovingly cared for in a separate enclosure waiting to be able to enter in the group and then we returned to our jeep and the lodge for the night.
I don’t think we’ll ever forget this visit to Mkomazi: strong emotions, surreal landscapes, close encounters with unique animals. In short, what more can you ask for? 😜😜