Named for the lifeblood river that flows through its heart, the 1,100-square-mile Tarangire National Park is the most seasonal of the four lynchpin reserves on Tanzania’s northern safari circuit. It comes into its own in the dry months of July to November, when large herds of thirsty grazers congregate on the river as it meanders through rocky baobab-studded slopes and semi-arid plains dotted with intricately sculpted red-earth termite mounds. All the Big Five except rhino are resident, and elephants are particularly numerous, but lions and leopards are less conspicuous than in the Serengeti. Other common wildlife includes olive baboon, wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, giraffe and various antelope.
Discover Tarangire National Park
It isn’t unusual to encounter more than 100 elephants in the course of one game drive, and matriarchal herds often approach calmly to within a few feet of a vehicle.
Though Tarangire can disappoint on the big cat front, troops of the delightful dwarf mongoose are often seen scurrying about their communal dens in termite mounds or dead logs.
More than 550 bird species have been recorded and many local birders rate Tarangire to be the top ornithological destination in northern Tanzania. Look for the endemic black-collared lovebird in the baobabs where it nests, palmnut vultures perched on riverside palms, and red-and-yellow barbets performing their comical duet on termite mounds.
The national park is flanked by several community concessions where sumptuous upmarket lodges offer night drives and game walks guided by traditionally-attired Maasai warriors.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mysterious prehistoric rock art that adorns the Maasai Escarpment south of Tarangire forms an excellent goal for a day trip from the park. Start with the panel dubbed Mungomi wa Kolo (Dancers of Kolo), which includes 150 superimposed images laid down over the centuries.