Best known for its elephant herds and tree-climbing lions, Tarangire is home to all the classic African savannah species plus a few unusual ones – such as the long-necked gerenuk – that you won’t see in the Serengeti. It’s home to all the big predators and with 550 species of bird on the tick list, it’s a fabulous destination for bird watchers. Tarangire National Park lies 120 km south of Arusha, along The Great North Road highway, and is very popular for day trips from the town. Tarangire offers a wide variety of wildlife in its area of 2,850 sq. km
The Tarangire River, after which the park is named, provides the only permanent water for wildlife in the area. When the Maasai Steppes dry up with the end of the long rains in June, migratory animals return to the Tarangire River, making Tarangire National Park second only to Ngorongoro in the concentration of wildlife. This period stretches between June and October and it is the best season for game viewing in Tarangire. The most common animals found in the park include zebras, wildebeest, lions, leopards, waterbucks, giraffe, elephants, gazelles, impala, gerenuk, lesser kudu and the beautiful fringe-eared oryx. You may be lucky to spot the tree-climbing python, for which the park is famous, or the greater kudu and the roan antelope which are rare species in Northern Tanzania. Over 550 bird species have been recorded in the Park.
The arrival of the short rains in November and December triggers a dispersal of animals away from the river, especially grazers like wildebeest and zebra. January and February are generally dry but the rain returns in March and visitors should avoid the heavy rains of April and May when much of the park is inaccessible and most camps close.
More densely vegetated than the open grasslands of the Serengeti, Tarangire is mostly covered in open woodland with thick forest set along the river – ideal cover for leopards. It’s also the best place in northern Tanzania to see the oddest-looking tree in Africa – the ‘upside down tree’ or baobab.
Travellers planning a safari to Tarangire will be pleased to hear that there’s plenty of excellent accommodation available in the park – ranging from family-friendly camps to honeymoon hideaways – and the park combines easily with the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara to make up the Northern Safari Circuit’s quartet of safari destinations.