Offering a completely different habitat from its more famous neighbours at Ngorongoro and Serengeti, Tarangire’s habitat is much more similar to that of the parks in southern Tanzania, especially Ruaha. Tarangire’s most appealing charm is its lack of visitors and its sheer size. Tarangire dwarfs Lake Manyara, and takes fewer visitors! Those that do travel this far tend to visit for a short period of time, and see only the northern sectors of the park before they rush off elsewhere.
This leaves the south of the park feeling truly remote and free of tourists. There are just a couple of good camps in the best locations inside the park. Our favourites are Kuro, Oliver’s and Swala, but we also like the more adventurous approach of Lemala and Mawe Ninga. Tarangire is the only national park in Tanzania where it is possible to do night safari as well as walking and fly camping, making it the northern park with the greatest diversity of safari activities. The hidden gem of the Northern Circuit.
THE BIG FIVE
Unfortunately, due to the lack of rhino in Tarangire, it is not possible to view the Big Five here (rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard!). However, Tarangire is one of the most famous places in Africa to see elephant. Approximately 3,000 elephant descend into the Tarangire swamp system in the peak of the dry season – it is a quite phenomenal site. Buffalo are common also, as are lion, but viewing leopard is tricky here. Over a three-day stay we would expect you to be lucky enough to view leopard, but it certainly cannot be guaranteed.
GENERAL GAME IN TARANGIRE
Without doubt, the most impressive feature of Tarangire is the park’s elephant migration, when huge herds push through to Tarangire’s river system and swamps during the dry season. Due to the astonishing abundance of elephant in the park, this truly is a spectacular scene. In fact, Tarangire contains the greatest numbers of elephant in northern Tanzania! But these are not the only animals to be attracted in immense concentrations to the park’s water sources during the dry spell – and Tarangire is home to many species all year round.
There are plenty of lion and leopard in Tarangire, present throughout the year and effectively setting up camp close to the Tarangire River from June to October to be near the gatherings of game. Tree-climbing lions are fairly common too! Cheetah, however, are relatively rare. Other carnivores that roam the rolling acacia and baobab woodlands, riverine forests and dense grass, include hyena, jackal and wild dog, though wild dog are scarce and favour other areas within the Maasai Steppe.
It is the herbivores that contribute most to the overall wildlife count in Tarangire. In addition to the enormous amounts of elephant, the park is chock-full of wildebeest, zebra, eland, impala, greater and lesser kudu, dik-dik, Coke’s hartebeest, Thomson’s gazelle, giraffe, buffalo, reedbuck, waterbuck, warthog, hippopotamus, mongoose and rock hyrax! There are even a couple of unusual antelope species – the fringe-eared oryx and the gerenuk. Black rhino are very seldom seen here, but it is believed that a few individuals dwell in the more remote regions of the park.
Birds frequent Tarangire in breathtakingly big populations – with over 500 species recorded to date, the park is truly a birdwatcher’s paradise! As the topography of Tarangire is so vast and varied, there is an outstanding range of feathery friends to encounter – ostriches, eagles, lovebirds, weavers, barbets, parrots, pelicans, nightjars, starlings, babblers, and the intriguingly named bare-faced go-away bird! Be sure to pack your binoculars, if birding is your thing.
WHEN TO GO FOR GAME?
As with the majority of parks in ‘Safari Africa’, Tarangire is a classic dry-season park with the game concentrations getting progressively better later in the year. July through to October is when the big herds concentrate themselves on the Tarangire river system – this is the best time of year to travel. For the remainder of the year the herds move south to the Maasai Steppe, with some animals also heading in the opposite direction and being recorded as far north as Amboseli in Kenya! Out of season is a great time to travel here as visitors will find a park delightfully void of visitors and access it for the amazing low-season prices… but Tarangire will also be missing the majority of its game! Of course, resident game remains and the park is still fascinating in our opinion – but there is a noticeable drop in game densities when the herds leave.
WHEN TO GO FOR VALUE?
As with so many places in Africa, the periods just on the edge of peak season and low season itself are when you can get the best value in the park. We have always suggested that travelling around the 1st November is a great time of year to go. The lodges all drop their rates on this date and considering the rains have not yet set in you can get August/September game viewing for low-season prices!
ACTIVITIES IN TARANGIRE
The main activity inside the park has always been standard game drives, but over the last few years TANAPA (the National Park Authority) has introduced a number of activities that are the envy of other national parks. Walking safaris and night safaris are now possible inside the park boundary – in our opinion, this takes away any reason to stay outside the park! Each lodge offers different activities, but the majority focus on standard game drives.