( dpa )- Giraffes graze serenely on the steep hillsides, Massai tribal villages nestle in the hills and countless elephants, zebras and gnus can be seen wandering through the tall savannah grasslands. This is Tanzania, a land blessed with magnificent wildlife and breathtaking landscape.
Beyond the tourist trail, the East African country has plenty of other attractions too such as the Serengeti National Park and the sun-drenched island of Zanzibar.
Back in the savannah, a fully-grown giraffe is plucking tender leaves from an otherwise thorny Acacia tree with aplomb before munching them with evident satisfaction. Four younger animals follow their mentor's example.
"This is a kindergarten for giraffes. The older animal can be a mother or an aunt. Giraffes are very intimate with one another", said Joerg Gabriel. The son of a diplomat is a guide and a ranger and he also happens to runs the Hatari Lodge hotel with his wife Marlies . It lies two hours by car to the south on the edge of the Arusha National Park. This is the natural habitat of the elephants and giraffes used for the famous 1960 Hollywood film " Hatari " starring John Wayne and Hardy Krueger.
The cameras once rolled further to the south where the German actor later built a farm of the same name. The view from the terrace of the actor's former residence, now the lounge of the art deco lodge rejuvenated by the Gabriel family, offers a spectacular view, with giraffes, warthogs and antelopes gambolling in the wetlands of Arusha National Park.
Back up north, the members of a group touring the area in an offroader can only marvel at the amazing variety of animal life in this region between Kilimanjaro park and the border with Kenya. Zebras, antelopes and cattle kept by the Massai tribesmen browse together, only a stone's throw from the giraffes.
Gabriel turns off the sandy track and rumbles across a stretch of hilly, rock-strewn terrain. He has just spotted some fresh elephant droppings. Gradually the thick-skinned mammal comes into view, first an ear between two bushes and then a big, beady eye before the whole of the colossal creature can be seen.
"A genuine old-timer, I reckon he's about 60 years old", says the guide.
Mkomazi National Park, four hours away by car, is an isolated region. The people here are some of the poorest in the country and many are forced to subsist for a month on the equivalent of around 88 dollars. The arid area is rich in animal life though, with plenty of elephants, zebras, giraffes and impalas. Leopards and lions live hereabouts too. The battle against illegal hunting is taken seriously by both the government and environmental groups and thankfully there is more big game in these parts than there was 20 years ago.
Sandy beaches frigged with coconut palms and wild animals, including spouting hippopotamus, are among the attractions in Saadani National Park on the Indian Ocean. It lies opposite the island of Zanzibar. On this particular afternoon, a solitary tourist boat makes its way along the Wami river between mangroves and sandbanks. The hippos come so close that the passengers can take close-up shots of them yawning wide.
Shortly afterwards , Costa Coucoulis , a Greek who grew up in Africa, recounts a dream to his fellow travellers : "I long to see to elephants bathing in the ocean", he says. He has almost certainly come to the right place since many a beachcomber in these parts has spotted the tracks left behind in the sand by these mighty pachyderms.