Tarangire, named after the Tarangire River which runs through it, is an arid haven, peppered with ancient baobab trees, towering termite mounts, and home to huge herds of elephant.
Only 30km from the Rift Valley escarpment, Tarangire falls outside the nutrient-rich volcanic belt and therefore its annual rainfall is very low (550mm). As a result, much of the park is semi-arid, dominated by baobabs, acacias and Doum Palms, often festooned with the nests of African palm swifts. 120 km south-west of Arusha, the greatest concentrations of animals are seen between June and November.
Second only to the Ngorongoro Crater as a dry-season (June/July) sanctuary for vast herds of migratory creatures, the park's wildlife tend to follow clearly defined seasonal patterns. First to move north-east, often as far as Lake Natron, are the zebras and wildebeests, which begin their trek in October. After them, trek the gazelles buffaloes, elands, oryxes and hartebeests.
Finally, the elephants move out. The Defassa waterbucks, impalas, giraffes, lesser kudus, Kirk's dik and warthogs, meanwhile, remain resident. The return of the park's migratory species begins in June and July; firstly with the oryxes and elands, then the elephants; and finally, the zebras and wildbeest. By August all the animals have returned and, because the migration path for many is through the Simanjiro area, this makes an ideal viewing spot. Night drives also allow for the spotting of leopards, springhares, gents, civets, white-tailed mongooses and ratels.
Tarangire is famous for its large herds of elephant (there are over 3,000 elephant in the park), also for its large numbers of lion (which can often be seen digging for water in the dry riverbeds), leopard, African buffalo, and lesser and great kudu. The park also hosts an enormous variety of birds - more than 550 species. The park has the highest concentration of wildlife during the dry season, starting in July and - depending on the short rains - lasting until November or through to February.
Tarangire is also world-renowned for its birds, boasting some 450 recorded species. Of the 60 raptor species that occur in Tanzania, 49 occur in Tarangire. What is more, the parks open habitat (especially in the northern sector), dotted with leafless trees makes for ideal bird-watching conditions (Tarangire Safari Lodge, which sits high on a bluff above the river is considered one of the finest ornithological haunts in the whole of Africa).
When to go and what to see
Tarangire is the best place to come in the dry season (July to October), especially to see large numbers of ungulates (at this time, many ungulates in the more famous Serengeti have migrated north to Kenya). Most visitors concentrate their activity in the northern sector and around the Tarangire Rivers. The Lemiyon region beyond the park's north-east boundary offers great photo opportunities.Hunting dogs roam throughout the Masai Steppes but are most likely seen in the eastern side of the park. Silale Swamp is famous both for its water birds and the vast pythons which can often be seen hanging in the trees.