Tarangire National Park covers an undulating area of 2,600km2 between the plains of the Maasai Steppe to the south-east and lakes of the Great Rift Valley to the north-west. The northern part of Tarangire is dominated by the perennial Tarangire River, which flows through increasingly incised ravines until it leaves the north-western corner of the park to flow into Lake Burunge. In the south, there is a series of vast swamps which dry into verdant plains during the dry season.
Although Tarangire is one of only four parks on Tanzania’s sometimes busy ‘northern circuit’, it is often either missed out or given less time of exploration by many safari planners. This means that few visitors go beyond the park’s busy northern area where many camps and lodges are located.
If you decide to visit to Tarangire, it is recommended that you consider to explore the southern part of the park which gets few visitors and retains a real air of wilderness.
Think of Tarangire as part of a much larger ecosystem, and you’ll understand why its game varies with the seasons. From November to May, some of the wildlife leaves the park, north-west to Lake Manyara, or east into the Maasai Steppe. From around June to October, when those regions are drier, the animals return to Tarangire’s swamps, and especially, its river system. This is the best season for a game-viewing safari in Tarangire, which can be excellent.
Particularly large numbers of elephant herds congregate here, as do many wildebeest and zebra. There are also substantial populations of impalas, giraffes, elands and buffalos. Thompson gazelles, Coke’s hartebeests, bohor reedbucks and both greater as well as lesser kudu are found here. The localized and unusual gerenuk and fringe-eared oryx also occur here but they are seen exceedingly rarely. Additionally, a few black rhinos are still thought to be available in the park.
Lions are common throughout Tarangire, as are leopards while cheetahs favour the more open areas of the south. Spotted hyenas are always around and while wild dogs sometimes pass through although sightings of the same are rare.
Tarangire’s vegetation comprises of mostly dry open woodlands which include thorny acacia thickets and lots of its signature baobab trees. There are also some beautiful stands of flat-topped Acacia tortillis trees and occasional palm trees. In the south of the park, amid these rolling woodlands is an extensive network of swamps. These are impassable during the rains but dry to a uniform green for the rest of the year.
The park’s most obvious features are the permanent Tarangire River, which runs the length of it, and the seasonal swamps, which are often dry for much of the year. Despite the fact that Tarangire is drier than the Serengeti, its vegetation is generally much denser including the densely packed elephant grass, large areas of mixed acacia woodlands and some lovely ribbons of riverine forest.
With a range of environments and good game, Tarangire’s birdlife is also varied – and over 500 species have been recorded here, including ashy starlings and large flocks of beautiful yellow-collared lovebirds, both of which are endemic to Tanzania