Tarangire National Park - Sanctuary Swala
Tarangire National Park is home of the elephants and Sanctuary Swala has a constant presence of elephants around camp, writes Chris Rippon, General Manager at Sanctuary Swala,Tanzania.
Sanctuary Swala tends to be a bachelor pad for elephants and guides bringing their clients to Swala always mention how it has the largest and oldest bulls in the park. We do at times have female herds passing through but they don't spend much time in camp as they get too much attention from the bulls.
We had three births around camp last season which led to the female herd hanging around Swala for a couple of days.
During the dry season - mid July to December the elephant sightings in camp are unbelievable, and we have a twenty-four hour presence of them in camp. The waterhole draws them from far and wide. Our record last season for number of bulls in camp at any one time is 92 with an average of 30 plus on bad days. They move all around camp, between the tents, try and drink out of the pool which we don't allow and the classic shaking of the trees to get hold of the Acacia pods. During the middle of the day they tend to rest in the shade of big Baobabs and Acacia trees around camp or sleep lying down at the waterhole which is not commonly seen in the wild - that is big elephant bulls.
When the first rains fall in December (normally) the elephants tend to move away a bit but soon make their way back when fresh water puddles and springs dry out. The big attraction is the waterhole,which we pump water into daily - it does keep water during the wet season though our daily filling of the waterhole does the trick.
Due to Swala's location so close to the border, the elephant bulls have raiding parties into the local communities annual crops and cause quite a bit of damage. We definitely notice this in the June/July time when bulls arrive in camp from a south-west direction looking behind them when rushing to the waterhole. Actually, quite funny as they know they have been mischievous. Once the crops are harvested, this does stop and the normal 200 kg's plus diet is then made up of acacia pods, grass,trees and anything they can fit into their big bellies.
Interaction with elephant and all other animals sharing the waterhole is amazing - even though at times they hog the waterhole when resting during the heat of the day- some of best sightings is having lion and buffalo waiting for a drink while the elephant are crowding around. Lions are unfortunately not accommodated and are chased up termite mounds or onto two fallen down trees where they can escape at times. If not they are chased away with elephants in tow or the clever cats jump up onto the safe quarters of the swimming pool where they have their drink.
Being it just sitting in camp, swimming at the pool, sipping on a G & T or braving it on a walking safari - elephants and Swala are synonymous with each other and many a guest have not even ventured on a drive while staying with us - why would you when everything can be seen from your deck! The elephants are actually quiet habituated to the camp and people and will allow you to capture their photos or behavior from mere feet away without a charge of even any annoyance. We have had comments in our clients feedback saying that the elephants disturb your sleep in the evening with all the noise from their competitive trumpeting when fighting at the waterhole for the last of the water. We take it as compliment that elephants are so close that they keep us awake at night...!