By Farzad Ghotaslou – Art in Tanzania internship
Tarangire National Park is a common safari destination for Art in Tanzania visitors. It is mostly combined with visits to Lake Manyara, Serengeti and N’gorongoro crater.
Ranking as the 6th largest National Park in Tanzania and covering an area of 2,600 square kilometers, The Tarangire National Park is most popular for its large elephant herds and mini-wildlife migration that takes place during the dry season which sees about 250,000 animals enter the park. Located slightly off the popular northern Tanzania Safari Circuit, the park lies between the meadows of Masai Steppe to the south east and the lakes of the Great Rift Valley to the north and west.
Within the northern part of Tarangire is the permanent River Tarangire also known as the lifeline of the park particularly in the dry season when most of the region is totally dry. This flows northwards until it exits the park in the northwestern corner to pour into Lake Burungi. There are several wide swamps which dry into green plains during the dry season in the south.
The name of the park originates from the Tarangire River that crosses the park. The Tarangire River is the primary source of fresh water for wild animals in the Tarangire Ecosystem during the annual dry season. The Tarangire Ecosystem is defined by the long-distance migration of wildebeest and zebras. During the dry season thousands of animals concentrate in Tarangire National Park from the surrounding wet-season dispersal and calving areas.
It covers an area of approximately 2,850 square kilometers (1,100 square miles.) The landscape is composed of granitic ridges, river valley, and swamps. Vegetation is a mix of Acacia woodland, Combretum woodland, seasonally flooded grassland, and baobab trees.
The Park is famous for its high density of elephants and baobab trees. Visitors to the park in the June to November dry season can expect to see large herds of thousands of zebras, wildebeest, and cape buffalo. Other common resident animals include waterbuck, giraffe, dik dik, impala, eland, Grant’s gazelle, vervet monkey, banded mongoose, and olive baboon. Predators in Tarangire include lion, leopard, cheetah, caracal, honey badger, and African wild dog.
The oldest known elephant to give birth to twins is found in Tarangire. A recent birth of elephant twins in the Tarangire National Park of Tanzania is a great example of how the birth of these two healthy and thriving twins can beat the odds.
Home to more than 550 bird species, the park is a haven for bird enthusiasts. The Park is also famous for the termite mounds that dot the landscape. Those that have been abandoned are often home to dwarf mongoose. In 2015, a giraffe that is white due to leucism was spotted in the park. Wildlife research is focused on African bush elephant and Masai giraffe. Since 2005, the protected area is considered a Lion Conservation Unit.
Every year during the dry season from June to November Tarangire hosts a wildlife migration which is not as dramatic as the Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti, but receives a somewhat large number of animals. As most of this part of the country is dry, the Tarangire River remains the only source of water and consequently attracts large numbers of wildebeests, elephants, gazelles, zebras and hartebeest, buffaloes plus various predators like lions that come to drink and graze around the riverbanks. during the rain months of November to May, the zebras as well as large herds of wildebeests move into the north-western direction towards the Rift Valley floor amongst the large numbers of animals that spread across the large open areas of the Masai Steppe and dispersing all the way to Lake Manyara.
Because Tarangire is manly a seasonal national park, its wildlife differs depending on the season and also considering that It is part of a bigger ecosystem. As earlier mentioned, the dry season is the best time to visit Tarangire and you will be able to encounter various animals. This Park is home to one of the largest elephant populations in Africa with several herds of up to 300 members per herd. In addition, there are large numbers of impalas, elands, buffaloes, giraffes, Bohor reedbuck, Coke’s hartebeest, Thompson’s gazelle, the greater and lesser kudu and on rare occasions, the unusual gerenuk and fringe –eared Oryx are also seen.
A few black rhinos are also thought to be still present in this park. You will obviously see big numbers of elephants gather here as well as the wildebeests and zebras. Among the other common animals in the Tarangire are the leopards, lions, hyenas, and cheetah that seem to be popular within the southern open areas. The wild dogs are only seen occasionally
The birds within the Tarangire are also quite many, there are over 545 species that have been identified here. The stunning yellow collared lovebirds and the shy starlings are in plenty here in addition to other species.
During the dry months the concentration of animals around the Tarangire river is almost as diverse and reliable as in the Ngorongoro Crater. However, the ecosystem here is balanced by a localized migration pattern that is followed by the majority of game that resides in and around the park. As a result, Tarangire is superb in season but questionable the rest of the year. Elephants are the main attraction, with up to 3,000 in the park during the peak months. Peak season also sees good numbers of wildebeest and zebra as well as giraffe, buffalo, Thompson’s gazelle, greater and lesser kudu,
eland, leopard and cheetah. The real prizes in the park are dwarf mongoose, oryx and generuk – but viewings are very rare.
Herds of up to 300 elephants scratch the dry riverbed for underground streams, while migratory wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, gazelle, hartebeest and eland crowd the shrinking lagoons. It’s the greatest concentration of wildlife outside the Serengeti ecosystem – a smorgasbord for predators – and the one place in Tanzania where dry- country antelope such as the stately fringe-eared oryx and peculiar long-necked gerenuk are regularly observed.
During the rainy season, the seasonal visitors scatter over a 20,000 sq km (12,500 sq miles) range until they exhaust the green plains, and the river calls once more. But
Tarangire’s mobs of elephant are easily encountered, wet or dry. The swamps-tinged green year-round, are the focus for 550 bird varieties, the most breeding species in one habitat anywhere in the world.
On drier ground you find the Kori bustard, the heaviest flying bird; the stocking-thighed ostrich, the world’s largest bird; and small parties of ground hornbills blustering like turkeys.
More ardent bird-lovers might keep an eye open for screeching flocks of the dazzlingly colourful yellow-collared lovebird, and the somewhat drabber rufous-tailed weaver and ashy starling – all endemic to the dry savannah of north-central Tanzania.
Disused termite mounds are often frequented by colonies of the endearing dwarf mongoose, and pairs of red-and-yellow barbet, which draw attention to themselves by their loud, clockwork-like duetting.
The permanent Tarangire River is the most dominant feature here and it’s after this river that the park was named. there are a number of large swamps that feed off some of its tributaries however, these are usually dry for most of the year but get very impassable during the rains .The Tarangire park is usually very dry, in fact drier than the Serengeti, however its vegetation is much more green especially with lots of elephant grass, vast areas with mixed acacia woodlands and some of the wonderful ribbons of the aquatic forest not to forget the giant baobab tree that can live up to 600 years storing between 300 and 900 liters of water.
Located slightly off the main safari route, Tarangire National Park is a lovely, quiet park in Northern Tanzania. It is most famous for its elephant migration, birding and authentic safari atmosphere. Most travelers to the region either miss out Tarangire altogether or venture into the park for a matter of hours – leaving swathes of Tarangire virtually untouched!
Tarangire safaris are the main activity, however, staying outside the park makes walking and night safari a possibility. There are no boat safaris on the rivers here, but Oliver’s Camp offers adventurous fly camping trips and very good walking safaris. Both Oliver’s Camp and Swala have recently started night safaris within the park itself. Ask us for more information as the regulations here seem to change every year!
During your Safari in Tarangire, you are highly recommended to stay for a couple of days especially in the south of the park which offers a less crowded safari experience and gives you the opportunity to enjoy an authentic African feel of the Tanzania’s countryside.
Tarangire is the surprise package on the Northern circuit. Often overshadowed by the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire has huge concentrations of animals in the peak months and a fraction of the visitor numbers of any of the other Northern parks. From July through to October safaris here are superb, and the atmosphere and habitats are completely different from other parks. Tarangire is surprisingly large, giving visitors the quietest game viewing environment of all the parks in the region. The South of Tarangire is especially quiet, and lodges such as Swala and Oliver’s Camp are the perfect place to explore this remote area, and to really get away from any other travellers. Overall, a superb little park that offers great value compared to its neighbours and a seriously good option for getting away from it all.
The game viewing from July through to October is exceptional but for the remainder of the year most of the game migrates out of the park, onto the floor of the Rift Valley and to the grazing grounds of the Masai steppe. As a result, we would advise visitors not to expect high concentrations of game in the off-season months but would still recommend travelling here to those who want to avoid the crowds.
The best time to visit Tarangire is probably in the dry season from June – October, where the game viewing is at its best. Tsatse flies tend to be bad from December to March so although this is a good time to go to the Serengeti for the wildebeest calving, Tarangire is best avoided at this time.
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