TANZANIA, UNSURPASSED AFRICA
THE LAND OF KILIMANJARO,ZANZIBAR AND THE SERENGETI
by Loren Leigh
If there is one place that should be on the top of any field herper’s list it is Africa, but more specifically, Tanzania. An amazing country officially known as the United Republic of Tanzania is located on the East Coast of Africa, south of Kenya, and the country’s shore lines are the Indian Ocean. Tanzania has some of the most diverse wildlife on earth and on my visit here in 2005, along with friends Donald Schultz and Jeff Lemm, we saw it all.
Loren and Donald in an African village
Tanzania is the world’s 31st-largest country. It is mountainous in the northeast, where Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, is situated. To the north and west are the Great Lakes of Africa: Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest lake), Lake Tanganyika (the continent’s deepest lake), and to the southwest lies Lake Nyasa. Central Tanzania comprises a large plateau with plains and arable land. The eastern shore is hot and humid, with the island of Zanzibar lying just offshore.
Tanzania contains many large and ecologically significant wildlife parks, including the famous Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park in the north, the Selous Game Reserve, Mikumi National Park in the south, and the Gombe National Park in the west. The Gombe National Park was made famous as the site of Dr. Jane Goodall’s studies of chimpanzee behavior.
Black Spitting Cobra seen on the trip.
My adventure began in South Africa in December of 2005. I meet friends Donald and Jeff, whom had already been herping in Northeastern South Africa, at the airport and we headed off to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We arrived in the early evening and began organize our trip. Time moves very slow in this region of Africa and in a country with power issues, bad phones, no computers getting a car organized and moving throughout the country can prove itself to be very difficult.
Mornings in this part of Africa start early with Mosques playing morning prayers at dawn all over this capitol, no need to bring alarms to this capitol. But this was a delightful wake up call for us as we were off to make are way across the country. I trip consisted of a Northwest course across the country from Dar es Salaam to Ngorongoro Crater, and along the way visiting Amani Forest Reserve (Usambara Mountains), Mount Meru, Mt Kilminjaro foothills, Arousha and finally the Ngorongoro crater conservation area.
Our first stop was the Amani Forest Reserve. There are many rare types of chameleon, lizards, snakes and amphibians within this reserve. Our focus was Reptiles and on this leg of our trip we discovered African Giant Black Millipedes (Archispirostreptus gigas), Giant Land Snails (Achatina species), Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica), and Lots of Amani Forest (Big Eye) Tree Frogs (leptopelis vermiculatus). This area is very lush sitting almost on the Equator and the frog diversity within just this park was truly amazing.
Loren and Donald with a Black Mamba
Our next stop was Mount Meru and Kilminjaro region. We did not climb Kilminjaro this a trek in itself taking days and also time to acclimatize but spent our time around the region. We started in Mt Meru. On our way up to Mt Meru or guide got a call that a local village had a Black Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis)in their village. Knowing we were on a herp expedition we were quick to go check it out. In this Village we did have a opportunity to see this snake, and to the amazement of the local village people. We spent a few days walking the river beds around this area looking for Black Mambas (Dendroaspis polylepis), no luck but did come across some Tanzanian Centipedes (Sometimes referred to as a Electric Blue Centipede) Scolopendra sp, and some amazing Red Headed Rock Agama lizards (Agama agama).
As we headed out Mt Meru our next stop was to visit a well known reptile keeper and wildlife park owned by Joseph Beraducci. He, in his many years in Arusha, has captive produced and assembled the largest collection of Tanzanian Chameleons, Lizards, Tortoises and many other species. Of my own particular interest was the amazing amount of Chameleons he was working with. Rudis, Fishers, Jacksons, Taveta, Giant Monkey Tails, Dwarf just to name a few.
The final leg of ourtrip was to Ngorongoro Crater to see the big game that is on display within the park. No trip to Africa is complete without seeing Elephants, Lions, Cheetahs, and the many other exotic animals that can be found in the big game parks. This particular park is unique in that these animals all reside within the caldera at 2000-4000 feet. Once a volcano, it blew its top 2-3 million years ago and today has a population of approximately 25,000 large animals and has the highest density of mammalian predators in Africa.
Lion at Ngorongoro Crater
Africa is an amazing place, with the diversity of ethnic people, amazing food and most of all incredible sights and animals. Our 1000 mile adventure was full of amazing times and will always be on the top of my list of places that are a must-see in the world. Remember the hardest part of a herping adventure is to put it on the calendar and go for it, so get out there and see the amazing herpetofauna the world has to offer.
Loren and some Giant Land Snails