The Tarangire National Park is a diverse and picturesque African wildlife sanctuary and is located just southeast of Lake Manyara on the Tarangire River, from which it derived its name. During the annual dry season (from August to October), the 2600 sq km Tarangire National Park attracts one of the highest concentrations of wildlife animals in Tanzania. During this time, the River provides the only permanent water in the area and forms a “dry season retreat” for the animals of the southern Masaai land in Tanzania. There are normally fewer safari tourists visiting the Tarangire National Park compared to the Ngorongoro National Park, which makes this African national park even more attractive. Safari activities are normally centered on game drives featuring excellent landscapes views of beautiful riverine forests, acacia woodlands, ancient African baobab trees and endless rolling hills. This alone makes the Tarangire National Park really worthwhile visiting. The park is reputed to contain some of the largest elephant herds in Tanzania or even in Africa. This African national park is also home to three rare species of animals – the Greater Kudu, the Fringed-eared Oryx, as well as a few Ashy Starlings.
The Tarangire National Park forms part of a bigger wildlife ecosystem covering over 20,000 sq km, which include the Lake Manyara National Park in the north, as well as five other surrounding wildlife controlled areas. The key to this wildlife ecosystem is the Tarangire River, and the local animal migration in the area begins from this river, at the start of the short rainy season around October every year. At the height of the long rainy season, the animals, which include wildebeest, Thompson gazelles, zebra and even African elephants, will be widely spread out over this 20,000 sq km area. When the wet season ends, the animals begin their migration back towards the river and spend the dry season July to October, concentrated in large numbers around the river.
The Lemiyon route covers the most northerly triangle of the Tarangire National Park. The park headquarters, airstrip and the public campsites are located in this section of the national park. During the dry season, animals are very often encountered in great numbers in this area and this is also where you will see some really fascinating and majestic African baobab trees. Many of them are very, very old, dating back to the first millennium. One particular famous one, known as the “Poachers Lookout Tree”, features a small man-made entrance that leads you into its hollow interior, which easily provides room for about six people to sleep in. To avoid detection by park warden patrols, poachers utilized this now famous tree, some years ago. Beyond the Lemiyon route, the park is split into the Matete route in the east and the Lake Burungi route to the west.
The eastern Matete route, named after the tall elephant grass and reeds that grow on the Tarangire riverbanks, usually provides the best option for game viewing. Wildlife and more specifically the birdlife, is prolific in this area. The western Lake Burungi route, a pleasant drive of about 80 km, meanders through combretum (a genus of about 250 species of trees and shrubs native to Africa) and acacia woodlands. With a bit of luck it is quite possible to encounter leopard and rhino in this area. The route also features lovely views of lakes Burungi and Manyara as well as the peaks of Milima Mitatu or “Three Hills”.
The Kitibong Hill route also covers the western section of the Tarangire National Park and is centered a round the Kitibong Hill. The route features combretum, acacia woodlands, the Gursi floodplains to the south, as well as a large variety of plain animals, including buffalo and elephant. The Gursi and Lamarkau routes are located in southern part of the park and mainly features grasslands, home to many plain grazing species, including the ostrich. During the wet season, large areas in this region are transformed to swamp areas, where it is possible to see hippo. The most southern end of the park is split into two areas known as Mkungunero (south-west) and Nguselororobi (east), which offers a number of freshwater pools, attracting many different species, including the illusive cheetah, if you are lucky.
When to visit Tarangire National Park
The first migrating animals start to arrive in the park during early June, and will remain in the park until November – just before the start of the short rainy season – when the migration moves north again. This annual wildlife Tarangire migration makes for fantastic safari game viewing in the dry season. Don’t fret if you cannot coincide your trip with the annual migration period – many animals including African elephants, lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, buffaloes, giraffes, zebras, a wide range of antelopes and warthogs – stay in the park all year round. Although the park offers many animals to be seen during the rainy season – you will however have to content with lush vegetation, rain and the plentiful insect population. June to March is the dryer months with June to October the prime time to visit.
Tarangire lodges and camps
There are several tented camps and luxury lodges available around Tarangire National Park area.