Tarangire National Park
Located slightly off the popular Northern Circuit in Tanzania and a short drive from Arusha, Tarangire is a lesser-known, quiet gem. Renowned for its elephant migration, it is a good choice for travellers who wish to encounter more animals and fewer tourists whilst on safari.
An often overlooked treasure, Tarangire has an entirely different habitat to its famous neighbours at Ngorongoro and Serengeti, making it a fantastic contrast and worthy addition to a Northern Circuit itinerary. Scattered with baobab trees, Tarangire's characteristic skyline is the backdrop for superb game viewing, particularly during the dry season when the marshes dry out into lush grassy fields, drawing great herds of elephant, buffalo, antelope, and other game.
Tarangire is undoubtedly one of the most famed places in Africa to see elephant. It's estimated the park is home to the largest elephant population in northern Tanzania, approximately 3000 in number. During the peak of the dry season, huge herds descend into the Tarangire swamp system, which makes for a spectacular sight. In addition, large concentrations of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, giraffe, eland, impala and warthog are attracted to the park's water sources during the dry spell. Lion and leopard are present throughout the year and set up camp close to the Tarangire River from June to October to be near the game gatherings. Tree-climbing lions are common too. Other roaming carnivores include hyena and jackal; wild dog are scarce, and cheetah are rare.
The park boasts significant populations of birds and over 500 species, including some species endemic to Tanzania. Tarangire is a bird lover's paradise; its topography is vast and varied, attracting ostriches, eagles, lovebirds, weavers, barbets, parrots, pelicans, nightjars, starlings, babblers, and the intriguingly named bare-faced go-away bird.
Out of all the Northern Parks, Tarangire offers the greatest diversity of safari activities. While the focus is on standard game drives, it is also possible to participate in walking safaris, fly camping, and, most notably, night safaris.
WHERE, WHEN, HOW
Tarangire is a classic dry-season park; game concentrations get progressively better later in the year. July to October is the best time of the year to travel when big herds concentrate on the Tarangire river system, resulting in spectacular game viewing opportunities. Furthermore, vegetation is dry and thin due to lack of rain, making it easier to spot the different wildlife.
There may be some benefit in travelling out of season; travellers can take advantage of low-season prices and find the park void of other visitors. However, there is a noticeable drop in game densities when the herds leave, with just resident game remaining.
A short journey from Arusha, Tarangire is the ideal place to stay for a couple of nights at the beginning or end of a Northern Circuit safari.