It is the vast number of baobabs that first capture the eye as you enter Tarangire National Park. The gently rolling countryside is dotted with these majestic trees, which seem to dwarf the animals that feed beneath them. About 120 kilometres/75 miles south of Arusha on the Dodoma road, Tarangire rivals the Serengeti for the size of the herds that congregate from June to November when many of the animals amass along the Tarangire River. At 2 600 square kilometres/1000 square miles, Tarangire is by no means the biggest of the Tanzanian parks, but its landscape of open plains dotted with thousands of baobab trees makes for an unforgettable safari. Tarangire is also known for its tree-climbing lions, large herds of buffalo and its predators tracking the vast herds of antelope.
Tarangire is one of the few places in Africa where large herds of 300 or more elephants can be seen. Lion are readily seen, particularly during the dry season when huge herds of wildebeest and zebra arrive from the Steppe.
A birding paradise, Tarangire National Park also boasts the endemic ashy starling, rufous-tailed weaver and black-collared lovebird. The dry season (approximately July – October) attracts large concentrations of wildlife as the Tarangire River is the only permanent source of water in southern Maasailand.
Although a visit during any of the months below is very rewarding and excellent concentrations of game can be enjoyed year round, the park has distinct seasons. Note that the description of seasons below is of typical seasons: as in any part of the world, weather is unpredictable and in any particular season, the weather may deviate from normal weather patterns.
June and July
In June the landscape is decked in wonderful wild flowers. Migrant birds have left for the north and wildlife has dispersed. The days are typically bright with some cloud cover and the mornings and evenings are quite cool. It is the start of the dry season (or winter). The baobab trees are slowly losing their leaves, and after the wet season of April and May, plant life is at its most beautiful. But the signs of the dry season are starting to show. Some grasses are drying out, and, viewed from a high point, the land is a complex mosaic of green, brown and straw colored grass, with every shade of wildflower imaginable (particularly in June) decorating the landscap. It is very picturesque. Wildlife viewing is unpredictable, but resident animals such as elephant, giraffe, lion, leopard, dik dik, impala and other smaller antelopes are usually easy to find. The large herds of zebra and wildebeest are now making their way into the park and, depending on the rainfall over the previous two months, are usually within the park boundaries by July. All in all, it’s a beautiful time to visit. Late July is an excellent time for long walks (walking safari).
August to October
This is the dry season. The landscape becomes straw colored dotted with green-topped fig and acacia trees. The days are getting hotter and the mornings and evenings less cool. Normally, there is no rainfall during this period. Wildlife concentrations during these months are incredibly high and guests typically stay 3 or more days to enjoy the extraordinary variety. Water sources are shrinking and the grass is trampled down by thousands of hooves. Great herds of buffalo, zebra, wildebeest and elephant stay close to the last surface water. Birdlife is also concentrated.
Exploring the wilderness areas is easier. Lion prides are more sedentary and easier to find, and elephants are more concentrated. This time is possibly the best time to visit Tarangire and enjoy all the activities, especially walking, or fly camping near waterholes.
Late October and November
Early October is very dry and wildlife viewing is excellent. There’s a slight humidity in the air, and this indicates that the rains are coming. By mid to late October some light showers typically arrive, and this is a real delight. Fresh new grasses sprout in days and wildlife moves, but it takes a few good downpours to disperse the herds. This state of flux can extend into November, and even December. Nature is waiting for the rain. It is a time of change, and as the land is refreshed a wonderful transformation takes place. Migrant bird species arrive and, as the grass is short, walking during this period is a delight – the flowers are back!
December to March
It is more humid and warmer at this time of year. By mid December the short rains have typically slowed; the land is regenerating and greenery returns. This is the start of the breeding season for much of this area’s wildlife. Elephants have extra energy and young mammals and birds fill the days.