When you contemplate a trip to Africa – especially East Africa – you think about the Big Five – the Lion, the Leopard, the Elephant, the Rhino and the Buffalo and of course I was thrilled to spot these on my recent trip to Tanzania – all except the elusive leopard.
Our guide however opened up a whole new world of “game spotting” to us in the most unexpected way. We spent a fascinating twenty minutes watching a dung beetle rolling and pushing its dung ball round and round. Periodically he would climb on top of the ball just to check out the terrain. Who is the dung beetle’s enemy? Well birds for one as well as bats, reptiles and other insect eaters who would just love a juicy dung beetle – a bit like us during lobster season on the East Coast.
Such patience … watch …
And what about the safari ants? We have all had ants in the house and what a nuisance they can be. We stopped and watched columns of ants – thousands and thousands of them – marching across the road. You have heard the story about elephants being afraid of mice – well it is actually these safari ants they are really afraid of. They can climb up an elephant’s trunk and hang on with their pincers and there is nothing the poor elephant can do to shake it out. Our guide had seen elephants bashing their trunks up against tree trunks in an attempt to get rid of this pesky intruder. They are so scared of ants that they can smell them and avoid them like the plague and as always in Africa there is a way to make nature work for everyone. Local villagers who farm water melons have a terrible time with the ellies who just love the sweet taste of watermelon and when you bear in mind that elephants consume between 400 and 600 pounds of vegetation a day. That’s a lot of watermelons. The villagers know the elephants hate the ants so a few bags of sugar sprinkled around the field attract the ants and voila! You have an instance elephant proof security fence!
The best small thing about Tanzania – the children! Our visit to a local kindergarten was heart warming and entertaining.