Why you should visit Tarangire National Park

Tarangire National Park in Tanzania

Tarangire National Park is a fairly large national park (2,850 square kilometers) located near Lake Manyara. It is often visited during safaris in northern Tanzania. There’s a lot to see in this park, which was founded back in 1970! You can see ungulates, raptors, and many birds…

Tarangire National Park

I visited Tarangire with friends at the end of January 2020. The weather was very rainy, the river of the same name had overflowed and it became impossible to move to the other bank, so we drove along the bank alone. It is better to visit this national park in the dry season from June to October, then there are more animals – they come to the river from all around.

But despite the bad timing of the visit, we managed to see quite a few.

Handsome impala ( Aepycoros melamous ) were common in the park.

Impala

Apparently, they are young males, which have not yet acquired their own harems.

We also saw large animals: giraffes, buffalo, zebras. A huge savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) also appeared before us.

Savannah elephant

All the standard set of wildlife of East Africa is present in Tarangire, here we see the warthog (Phacochoerus africanus).

Numerous anubis (Papio anubis).

Anubis baboons

Tarangire National Park is characterized by large termite mounds, on which in the morning the striped mongoose (Mungos mungo) bask.

Striped mongoose

In fact, they often live in such giant termite mounds. Or in rock crevices.

Striped mongoose

Despite the fact that most mongooses are solitary, striped mongooses often join in packs with a complex social structure. In such a flock may be up to 40 individuals!

Striped mongoose

The biology of these animals is very interesting, with many unusual features. For example, it has been noticed that females in a group synchronize their birthing cycles. It is not clear why, presumably to prevent infanticide of other females, as females cannot distinguish children very well because of “sameness” of calves. Perhaps this synchronization makes the group more mobile and does not stretch the period when the cubs are in the shelter.

Striped mongoose

After all, mongooses are constantly wandering around their territory and change shelter 1-2 times a week.

Striped mongoose

The size of striped mongooses is 30-45 cm, so their main prey is invertebrates, as well as frogs, lizards and bird eggs. Striped mongoose look for food on their own, maintaining constant audible contact with other members of the group nearby.

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Striped mongoose

The range of this species extends to almost all of Black Africa.

Another animal with a territorial-group lifestyle is the pygmy mongoose (Helogale parvula).

Pygmy mongoose

It is only 16-23cm in size and is therefore almost exclusively insectivorous. It lives in eastern and southern Africa, not only in savannahs but also in very wooded areas.

We found the pygmy mongoose at the magnificent Tarangire Sagari Lodge.

Lodge in Africa

When traveling through national parks in Africa, you should always stop by such lodges – there are tons of critters there! Just grab a drink, or a beer, and you’re free to walk around the grounds. Well, I had a good time at all: while my two friends were drinking beers, I explored the grounds.

Lodge in Africa

Right next to the tents you can find mongooses, squirrels, lots of birds…

The ochre bush squirrel ( Paraxerus ochraceus ) was just photographed at Tarangire Safari Lodge.

Ochre bush squirrel

I had already seen this animal at Lake Eyasi in Tanzania.

And the red ground squirrel (Xerus rutilus) I have also seen.

Red ground squirrel

On the beautiful Lake Bogoria in Kenya.

But the Bruce’s damsel ( Heterohyrax bruceii ), whose colony has settled in Tarangire Sopa Lodge turned out to be a lafer!

Bruce's Daman

The animal is named after James Bruce, the great 18th-century Scottish explorer of North Africa and Ethiopia.

The Bruce’s daman is similar to the Cape daman we saw in Hells Gate National Park in Kenya, but has a slimmer build, narrower skull, and pronounced cream-colored eyebrows.

This species inhabits cliffs, rocky mountainsides, and is often found in lodges in East and South Africa. The Bruce’s damselfly lives in colonies consisting of a dominant male, several females and their offspring. They feed on a variety of vegetation and get their moisture from food.

Interestingly, the soles of damans’ feet are specialized for moving on rocks: they are naked and moist from the secretion of special glands. Moreover, the soles of the feet can take the form of a suction cup, which allows the damans to climb very steep rocks.

Damans bask in the sun most of the day, because they poorly regulate their body temperature and it floats from 25 to 35 degrees.

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In addition to the lodges, we always stop by picnic sites and camping sites. You can get out of the car there and walk around and stretch your legs. And see the animals, of course. Often these sites are set up in places with a good view.

River

Agama (Agama lionotus). Adult male.

Agama

Similar to Agama mwanzae, which I saw on the Mara River in Kenya. But, in contrast, this species is more widespread in East Africa and has a slightly different coloration.

Agama

The female looks similar, but her head is gray.

During the wet season, the African pelomedusa (Pelomedusa subrufa) often makes long overland trips, moving from one body of water to another.

African pelomedusa

This peculiarity has allowed this small (25 cm) turtle to spread throughout Africa and even to Madagascar and Yemen!

The African pelomedusa feeds on aquatic invertebrates, frogs, bird and animal carcasses that find themselves in the water.

In Tarangire Sopa Lodge we found a huge Heliocopris 5-6 cm long.

Helicopris

I wrote a separate article about the birds of Tarangire Park.

As a naturalist-researcher, I prefer national parks, where you can thoroughly bury yourself for a few days, live in the woods and walk on trails, like in the Danum Valley, or in Maliau Basin. But the savannah is the savannah and dictates its own rules. Safari in Tarangire National Park is allowed only by car. If on foot – then accompanied by an armed ranger. In Tarangire, there is a special feature: all lodges and the office of the national park organize night safaris in the park. We did not use this option, but I would love to read comments from those who have been on such a safari!

Visitor Information

Season: year round. The dry months are June-October, but there are more tourists at this time as well. Admission: $53.1 for adults and $17.7 for children, payment by card only. Hours of operation: 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Infrastructure and helpful hints: there are many expensive lodges and a campground inside the park. A night at the campsite costs $35.4 per person, and you must have your own gear. Overnight safari: when staying in lodges inside the park costs about $80 per person, from the park office $59 for an adult and $29.5 for a child.

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How to get there

By public transport is quite problematic and makes no sense – because then you will need to rent a car. So you have to go directly by car from Arusha, or from Lake Manyara. The best option is to spend the night in the lodge at the entrance to the park and the next morning to go on safari from the opening of the park. And even better – spend the night for two nights, so that after the day safari to go to the night one, and then drive further on the route.

Where to live and eat

There are several lodges near the entrance to the park, they are not in the reservation systems. The cheapest is Zion Campsite, where you can pitch your own tent for $10. Of the more expensive options:

There are already a lot more lodges inside the park, but they also cost quite a bit:

There are two more high-end lodges located in the Tarangire Conservation Area on the border with the national park:

What’s interesting about Tarangire National Park?

Although it is often described as Tanzania’s most underrated park, Tarangire is one of Africa’s little-known gems. This park is worth including in any Northern Circle itinerary.

Offering a variety of wildlife and magnificent landscapes, Tarangire also boasts the largest population of elephants in Tanzania. Though without the Big Five, but still with a sturdy Four (only the rhinos are missing), Tarangire is a great stop for a day trip or an addition to an itinerary aimed at exploring the Serengeti and Ngorongoro.

Named after the Tarangire River that runs through it, the park is an ideal choice during times of drought when animals are forced to move closer and closer to the river in search of water. The river itself flows alongside majestic baobabs and beautiful acacia trees, which only adds to the beauty of the already gorgeous view.

Tarangire. Facts.

  • Location: 118km southwest of Arusha.
  • What to do: guided hiking safaris, safari driving, cultural tours in neighboring villages.
  • Known: The largest elephant population in Tanzania
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Best time to visit Tarangire.

Tarangire is beautiful in both the rainy season and the dry season. It is ideal to visit at any time of the year. Between August and October, when wild animals are most concentrated, the park offers great safari conditions.

Features The park

Variety of wildlife.

With the exception of the endangered black rhinos, Tarangire is home to all of Tanzania’s most famous animals, from miniature dikdikas to huge African elephants and giraffes. They attract travelers from all over the world.

In addition to the popular animals, the park is also home to rare endangered species not found anywhere else in Tanzania. We are talking about the fringed-eared oryx with its graceful horns, the great kudu antelope and the tiny ashy starling.

The largest population of elephants in Tanzania.

Tarangire cannot fail to be famous for its huge population of elephants, the largest in Tanzania. During the dry season, you can see groups of up to 300 elephants digging the dried-up riverbed of the Tarangire River in search of underground springs.

Even during the rainy season, when other inhabitants of the park usually disperse throughout its 200,000 square kilometers, elephants can be seen without much difficulty precisely because of their numbers.

Migration

Every year between June and November, Tarangire National Park becomes home to an animal migration. Perhaps not as spectacular as the Great Gnu Migration in the Serengeti, but still interesting enough to see.

As all other water sources dry up, the Tarangire River becomes a refuge for the animals living in the park. Huge groups of gnu, zebra, gazelle, and even predators like lions and leopards gather near the river for watering and hunting. During this period, Tarangire offers a unique view of wild life, which becomes even more accessible to observe at the expense of slightly dried up landscapes.

Swamps

Placed in the eastern and southern regions of the park, Tarangire’s network of swamps offers an equally interesting spectacle. It is a gathering place for elephants, buffalo, and the more than 500 species of birds that live in the park.

The seasonal wetlands, which dry out during the dry season, are an intriguing place for those who want to see wading elephants, swamp lions, pythons that live in trees, and even such rarities as the African wild dog.

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Bird-watching safari in Tarangire.

Tarangire is a birdwatcher’s paradise. There are more than 550 species of birds due to the good conditions of the park – plenty of food and habitats. This place is great not only for birds, but also for those who would like to see them.

The forested area of the park is home to hoopoes, hornbills, brown parrots, and white-bellied banana-eaters. Tarangire is also home to the common guinea fowl, yellow-cheeked spurfowl, and crested auroch.

Other popular residents of the park are the Masked Mute, Lilac-breasted Siskins, Mouse Birds, Swifts, Striped Swallows, Bee-eaters, Hammerheads, Plovers, African Great Bustards, some species of Eagles and the giant African Eared Vultures. And that’s just a small fraction!

Shadows of Africa can arrange bird watching safaris for those who are particularly interested. Email us to learn more.

Baobab Tree.

Along with the acacia, no plant is as clearly synonymous with Africa as the noble baobab. Also known as the Tree of Life, the baobab gets its unusual shape by its ability to store 300 to 1,000 liters of water inside its swollen trunk. These venerable trees, capable of living for up to 600 years, are especially common in Tarangire Park.

Legend has it that many years ago, baobabs roamed all over Africa on their roots until they angered God. Ever since then, they have been growing up roots and are forever tied to one place…

From a more practical perspective, the baobab is an important food resource for Tarangire’s animals, its seeds are edible, and its bark helps elephants sharpen their tusks.

In the park, you can see the notorious “Poacher’s Hiding Place,” a place where ivory hunters used to hide. Up to twenty poachers could hide there.

Rock Paintings.

Located outside the park, Colo Rocks is a world-famous cultural treasure that still preserves the rock drawings of hunter-gatherers and the remains of prehistoric refuges.

Are you interested in a safari in Africa?

Write to one of our safari experts and we will plan a safari tour for you!

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