At 2,600 sqkm, Tarangire National Park is the smallest of the northern parks, but it’s one of the best in the dry season. 6,000 elephants migrate to the Tarangire River in search of water, accompanied by huge numbers of other wild animals. Around the river, you’ll encounter the greatest concentration of wildlife outside the Serengeti. The elephant behaviour is particularly enjoyable to watch, but there is also a mind-boggling number of zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, buffalo, impala, gazelle, eland, rhino and hartebeest all crowding the river to quench their thirst. Main predators crouch amongst the thick vegetation, spoilt for choice as they select their next meal. It’s an absolute privilege to witness this mass migration at the Tarangire River.
A Mix of Landscapes – Don’t Miss the Swamp!
The landscape in Tarangire National Park includes rolling hills, dense elephant grass, ravine forest, acacia woodland and an expanse of swamp, all crossed by the life-sustaining Tarangire river system which never dries completely. Safari visitors tend to spend all their time near the river in the northern area of the park, which is a shame because you should also visit the huge, ever-green network of flat swamps in the south. This swamp region is a true wilderness that also attracts many migratory animals in the dry season, and it’s a haven for birdlife.
Baobab trees scatter the park, some are around 1,000 years old and of such girth and stature that you can step inside their hollow trunks. Elephant love these trees and give them a battering. You might come across the well-known Poacher’s Lookout tree, big enough for 6 people to lie down inside. Look closely at the Sausage trees – Tarangire’s pythons climb them, as do its lions and leopards, lounging in the branches where the sausage fruit disguises the twitch of a tail.
Over 500 Bird Species
If you’re a bird lover, Tarangire National Park is your ideal safari. Here, you’ll find the most species of breeding birds in one habitat in the world. There’s a remarkable 500 bird varieties and many live in the vast, green swamp region in the southern part of the park. Some birds are endemic to Tarangire, such as yellow-collared lovebirds and ashy starlings.
Fly camping is an amazing experience for the more adventurous. You’ll sleep under the stars in a tent (accompanied by an armed guide and a cook) and you can move on to explore the park for 2 or 3 nights. Take a night safari to see fascinating action around the river – animal behaviour can be very different after dark. Guided walks are popular, bringing you even closer to the animals and birdlife. A truck safari gives you an excellent overview of the sheer concentration of wildlife.
An exciting alternative is a self-drive safari in a converted Land Rover with all the mod-cons. Start from Arusha town with a pre-planned itinerary and go on a bush camping adventure with a tent on your roof (this can be combined with luxury lodges). If you have time, take a day trip to see the impressive Kolo rock paintings, or visit a Maasai village to learn about how they live.
There is a wide choice of accommodation to suit your budget within the park itself – lodges, a tented lodge, two luxury tented camps and several camp sites. Stay in a tree-top lodge, built around a baobab tree, or keep your feet on the ground in a decked camp. Staying in the park is the best experience, but there are many excellent lodges and tented camps just outside the park’s boundaries as well.
Best Time to Visit
Late June to October is the best time to visit Tarangire National Park. The end of June is the middle of the dry season – don’t visit any earlier in case the animals are late in their migration due to rain. The wet season starts in November, when many animals begin to migrate out of the park.
How to Get There
Combine a safari to Tarangire National Park with Ngorongoro Crater or the Serengeti. All of these can start from Arusha town. From Kilimanjaro International Airport, drive 46km to Arusha. Then it’s a 2hr drive to Tarangire’s gate. Alternatively you can fly in to one of the park’s 2 airstrips, from Arusha or Kilimanjaro airport.