Your journey through Tarangire will eventually take you south to the remote Silale Swamp. The character of the park changes significantly as you journey south - instead of the woodland that blankets much of the northeastern regions of Tarangire, the landscape is blanketed with a vast sea of grasses and moisture. Crowned cranes prance along the shoreline, and great egrets pose solemnly in the shallows. The expansive views over the swamp to the Sambu mountains rising up in the distant horizon are breathtaking.
The Silale Swamp acts as a giant sponge during the green season and slowly releases water during the dry season attracting thousands of animals. Resident animals that you will likely encounter include elephant giraffe, rock hyrax, impala, dik-dik, ostrich, waterbuck, warthog and reedbuck. Some of the rare antelope species that you may encounter include kudu and oryx. Primates include baboon, vervet monkey and bushbaby while carnivores include lion, leopard, jackal and banded mongoose, which is a small and very social carnivore that lives in large packs and preys mainly on invertebrates. Many species of birds flock in great numbers to the waters of this bird-friendly habitat.
Great rock pythons can be seen living alongside the swamp. These thick, massive reptiles will often curl up high in the branches of the trees that grow alongside the swamp, and will often stay stationary for months at a time - giving visitors the perfect opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat.
Like great battleships drifting through the park, elephants can often be witnessed in large numbers here. Called "tembo" in Swahili, elephants are very sophisticated creatures who live in tightly knit family units. The largest and oldest females serve as the leaders of this family unit, which may consist of several generations of elephants. At maturity (about thirteen years of age) all males will leave his female friends behind - all the sister, mother and grandmother elephants -to live alone or in temporary all-male herds. If you are ever threatened when watching a herd of elephants, it is likely that the aggressor will be an older female protecting her family unit. Most of the time elephants are quite gentle, especially when interacting with other close family members. They are intelligent, loyal, and develop strong bonds with one another.
Fully grown male elephants do not normally come into contact with family units except when a female comes into heat, and thus she is followed by several male admirers and is usually mated by more than one. Some squabbling may break out between the rivals, although it seldom leads to serious injury. When the female comes out of season, her association with the fully grown male elephants ends immediately.
Even the largest most intimidating predators usually leave adult elephants alone. The only exception would be babies; only 80 cm tall at birth, these little tikes would be easy targets for lions if they were not so well protected by their family. At the first indication of danger, elephants will huddle together and place the calves in the center of the adult herd. Depending on the reaction of the threat, the herd will either retreat or the largest matriarch female will put on a show to intimidate the intruder. During the display, the demonstrating elephant will spread her ears wide and shake her head dramatically from side to side. Sometimes, a dummy charge will follow accompanied by loud trumpeting. This tactic usually works as there are not many natural things in this world that are more intimidating than a large, angry, charging elephant!
Elephants do sometimes lay down to sleep, however there is no truth in the myths about "elephant graveyards".
Areas along the riverbanks where the water has receded are excellent places to observe elephants digging for a drink in the sandy bed where the water table lies just below the surface. Elephants, as well as other animals, seem to prefer the clean, cool water from such digging to hot muddy water that is already pooled at the surface. The digging starts by scraping the loose sand with the forefeet, but once the hole has started to form the trunk is also incorporated as a digging tool. Although their objective is a cool drink, elephants often seem to make a game of this behavior, putting on quite a show with splashing water and caking themselves with splattered mud. Elephants seem to be the only species intelligent enough, and with enough size, to be capable of such excavations, although other animals have learned to take advantage of them. Amazingly, adult elephants drink between 90-140 liters of water per day.