Tarangire National Park offers visitors the chance to experience a slice of true, untouched African wilderness.
The park, located in northern Tanzania, is known for its elephant herds, tree-climbing lions, impressive wildlife diversity, and many beautiful baobab trees. The word tarangire actually means ‘river of warthogs’, so expect to see plenty of warthogs in Tarangire National Park too!
The park is also very accessible, being a reasonably short drive from the city of Arusha. This makes it an excellent Tanzania safari destination. At Follow Alice we love to take our travellers to explore Tarangire National Park. It’s a treasure, in our opinion, and a game drive there never disappoints! Further, you can go on a walking safari, which is an unforgettable experience and not allowed in many of the other Northern Circuit parks.
Tarangire is one of Tanzania’s lesser-known parks. A perk of this is that visitors to the park get to enjoy a relatively uncrowded safari. On top of this, the biodiversity of Tarangire is next level. This is a great destination if you’re all about the animals!
Tarangire allows walking safaris, which are a truly memorable experience.
Tarangire National Park is located in northeast Tanzania, not far from the city of Arusha. It’s one of several world-class conservation areas and national parks that make northern Tanzania a safari hotspot. Just a stone’s throw to the northwest of Tarangire is Lake Manyara National Park, for instance, known for its flamingo-choked eponymous lake. Head a little further in the same direction and you stumble across the incomparable Ngorongoro Crater. Continue even further in that direction and you have the famous Serengeti National Park, the primary location of the Great Migration. Need we say more?
You can find Tarangire National Park in northern Tanzania. It’s 120 km southwest as the bird flies from the city of Arusha. Arusha is the gateway to northern Tanzania and some of the best African safaris. It’s also used as a base by those heading to Kilimanjaro National Park to climb Kilimanjaro. Arusha has an airport and many international tourists fly directly into Arusha, or connect there through Dar Es Salaam or Nairobi. The drive from Arusha to Tanragire is 140 km along the A104, and takes three hours.
Tarangire National Park is about 2,850 km². That’s almost the size of Rhode Island. It was established in 1970 and is shaped a little bit like a bean. It’s the sixth largest park in Tanzania.
Being such a large park, the landscape of Tarangire varies greatly as you move about. For starters you have grassland plains that are dotted with ancient baobab trees. You also have riverine woodlands, rocky hills, rugged gullies, bushland, swamps and floodplains. These various habitats support an incredibly diverse and high concentration of wildlife. And this includes the little guys too – like the termite, which thrives in Tarangire. Termite mounds can be seen everywhere, and often grow into towers that are double the height of a grown man.
Massive, red-earth termite mounds are synonymous with Tarangire National Park.
Tarangire also has the most diverse vegetation of any northern Tanzania park. One species of particular note, which we’ve already mentioned, is the enormous African baobab tree. In fact, an African baobab trunk can grow to be around 30 m (100 ft) in circumference. Further, these trees grow to a crazy age. One baobab tree (not in Tarangire) was found to be 1,275 years old! So you’re seeing something truly special when you see a baobab tree. The tree is also dotted everywhere with various types of acacia trees, which remind you that you’re definitely in Africa.
The Tarangire River, which flows out of Lake Burungi to the west, runs north to south through the park. This is the only constant water supply in the region during the dry season. And this is why the park attracts so many migratory animals every year.
So yes, wildlife. Let’s talk more about that …
Tarangire National Park has the second highest concentration of wildlife in Tanzania. The number one spot goes to Serengeti National Park. Yet given how much larger Serengeti National Park is, Tarangire arguably outperforms even that mighty park in terms of wildlife density.
A number one spot that Tarangire can claim without any quibble is having the highest elephant concentration in the world. Believe it or not, in Tarangire the elephant herds can reach over 300 individuals! If you’ve never seen an elephant, or just love these gentle giants, then you need to head to Tarangire.
The other animal species that would be emblazoned on a Tarangire bumper sticker is the lion. An exciting aspect of Tarangire National Park is how likely you are to spot lions. Moreover, these are tree-climbing lions, which are only found in northern Tanzania and southern Uganda. There are around 700 lions in the park, so your chances of spotting prides are very high. The lions particularly enjoy draping themselves over the branches of sausage trees. These trees have a thick canopy and large, sausage-shaped, hanging fruits. And if the lions weren’t reason enough to pay special attention to sausage trees on a Tarangire safari, note that leopards and pythons also enjoy hanging out in them.
Other animals you can look for on safari in Tarangire include hippos, cheetahs, buffaloes, zebras and giraffes. The park’s antelopes include wildebeests, hartebeests, kudus, oryxes, elands, gazelles and impalas. Also look for baboons, vervet monkeys, dwarf mongooses and African wild dogs.
Tarangire boasts more than 550 species of birds. Its bird population is one of the most diverse in all of Africa! Many of the birds, like flamingos and hornbills, are drawn to the park for its swamps. When visiting Tarangire, keep a keen eye open for the kori bustard. This is the heaviest flying bird in the world. You can also look for stocking-thighed ostriches, which might just have the best name of any bird ever! Another beauty to try to spot is the yellow-collared lovebird, or masked lovebird. They often hang out in pairs or colonies, and make a colourful little splash on the landscape.
Interesting fact: Tarangire has more breeding species of birds than anywhere else on Earth!
The best time of year to visit Tarangire National Park is during the dry season, which is June to October. In the dry season, thousands of zebras and wildebeests migrate to the park. They’re drawn by the waters of Tarangire River, which flows through the middle of the park. This is the only stable water source in the region during the dry period. So you can understand why such a concentration and diversity of animals flock to the park in summer.
The vegetation of the park is also sparser at this time of year, making game spotting that much better. And if that weren’t enough, the scarcity of water forces the animals to congregate at the river. So spotting plentiful large game in the dry season is simply a given in Tarangire.
The wet season, which is November to May, is the park’s off-peak season. This is because the migratory animals have headed back north. The park still has plenty of resident wildlife during this time, however. And if you enjoy a lush landscape, and an even quieter safari, then this is a good time to visit. The southern portion of the park, being a little bit of a further drive from Arusha, is especially quiet.
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During the dry season (June to October), Tarangire has the highest concentration of mammals of any of Tanzania’s national parks.