Tarangire National Park: Tanzania’s Hidden Gem

With year-round lush and green landscape, never-ending water sources, and long-distance wildlife migration, Tanzania’s national parks never disappoint. Yet, we all think of Serengeti when it comes to the ultimate safari experience. Many other national parks in the country, such as Tarangire National Park, are nothing short of Serengeti. Tarangire, the sixth largest national park in Tanzania, is a lesser-known safari destination. The Tarangire River running through the park provides enough water all year round and attracts massive herds of animals during the dry season. That’s why; it is one of the best destinations in Africa to view large mammals, especially elephants and buffalo.

Tarangire Jorge Cancela License: CC

Overview

Tarangire National Park lies between Masai Steppe and the Great Rift Valey, covering 2850 square kilometers.

Tarangire Ecosystem is part of the East African Rift Valey along with Lake Manyara and Lake Burungi. The area was completely submerged underwater in prehistoric times but mostly dried up, leaving a few lakes behind. The dry lakebed is quite rich in minerals, which facilitated the growth of the rare yellow-barked fever trees. Another characteristic plant species is the baobab with heights exceeding 30 meters.

Tarangire River is an essential factor in the park, running through the northern section and flowing into Lake Burungi. The riverside boasts several swamps and green plains that are prime wildlife habitats. The park has sufficient water all year-round thanks to the river. As a result, it sees a massive wildebeest migration from surrounding parks that have water scarcity during the dry season.

Wildlife

With thousands of elephants and buffalo lurking around the river all year round, Tarangire National Park is considered one of the best places to view them in East Africa. Another interesting fact about Tarangire’s elephants is that it has the first elephant in the world that gave birth to identical twins.

Tarangire Jorge Cancela License: CC

The green plains also appeal to thousands of wildebeest that migrate here in the dry season. You will see numerous blue wildebeest, hartebeest, impala, kudu, zebra, gazelle, and giraffe. Predators visit the area quite regularly to drink water and hunt, so you will also stumble upon a lot of predators like lion, wild dog, hyena, leopard, cheetah, and wildcats.

Tarangire Deborah License: CC
Tarangire Jorge Cancela License: CC

The park boasts some endangered species like long-necked gerenuk and fringe-eared oryx that lurk around the swamps.

The wet season in Tarangire is perfect for bird-viewing with over 500 species, including the migratory ones. If you are a bird-lover, look out for the endemic vulturine guineafowl and northern pied babbler.

Activities

Tarangire is one of those parks that have both budget safari options and high-end safaris.

There are two game drives every day, one early in the morning and one late in the afternoon. The 2-3 hour long drives include stops at critical spots for wildlife-viewing. During these tours, your guide will tell you everything about the geology and the history of the area.

Night drives are also possible, but you need to be staying at either Oliver’s Camp or Swala Camp to join them.

The hot-air balloon safari is an unforgettable experience that only a few safari parks dare to offer. Tarangire organizes early morning tours, during which you ascend into the sky just as the sun is rising. The reflection of golden sunlight on the grassland and the water makes the bird-eye view even more scenic.

The morning tours all end with a mouth-watering bush breakfast.

For adventure-seekers, Tarangire offers two types of walking safari tours. The ones inside the park aim to track and get close to animals, while the guide informs you about their survival mechanisms. Just outside the park, you can join Maasai walking tours with a local guide to visit the village of Maasai Warriors.

Climate & Best Time To Visit

Tarangire experiences 6 months of rainfall between November and May. The rains are usually short and in the form of afternoon showers between December and February. On the other hand, the park receives heavy and continuous showers between March and May. The temperature range is 16-28 degrees throughout.

The dry season between June and October has mostly sunny days with clear skies. October is the hottest month, with temperatures over 30 degrees.

Although both seasons have mild temperature ranges, the dry season is a much better option for safari because of the wildlife migration towards the Tarangire River. The rains during the wet season thicken the bush and make it much harder to track animals, although it is a better option for bird-watching.

Getting There

The nearest city to Tarangire is Arusha, which is also close to other safari destinations like Ngorongoro and Serengeti. The closest airport to Arusha is Kilimanjaro International Airport. The direct flights to this airport could be expensive, so you can consider flying through Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam.

Tarangire is 2 hours drive from Arusha. Self-driving is very easy because it is a tarred-road until the last 7 km. Alternatively, you can book safari packages that contain transfer between the park and the airport or your accommodation.

It is also possible to take an air charter to the park; however, they will first take you to Serengeti to drop off the tourists heading there.

Tips & Things You Might Need To Know

· Malaria is a high risk throughout the country, so we recommend that you take precautionary pills before, during, and after your trip.

· While the wildlife is more concentrated in the north because of the river, the south of the park is quieter and less touristy. We recommend that you spend at least a night in the south. You can stay at campsites like Swala and Oliver’s Camp. Besides, these are the only camps in the park that organize night drives.

Tanzania Tarangire National Park
Moments in the nature by Antje License: CC

· Kikoki Tented Camp is a newly-built private land just outside the park. Even though rhinos are absent from Tarangire, you can see rhinos in this area.

· Traditional treehouse stays are available at the Tarangire Treetops Lodges.

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