Expert Reviews – Tarangire NP

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Tanzania’s most underrated wilderness
Overall rating

Although it’s only a couple of hours up the road from Arusha, most tourists hurry on towards Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro with barely a second glance at the Tarangire turn-off; and in doing so they are missing the wildest park on Tanzania’s northern circuit. Elephants and baobabs – the giants of the animal and vegetable kingdoms – define the nature of Tarangire. Add 500 square miles of acacia glades, swamps and anthill-dotted plains and you have a classic African big game sanctuary. Tsetse flies can be bothersome but soon forgotten when you find a lion pride or a beautiful Tarangire leopard. Birding is good, too. I saw my first-ever pennant-winged nightjar here. The best advice for anyone wanting to visit Tarangire is to come in the dry season between June and October when the only water for miles around is the Tarangire River, attracting thousands of animals from the Masai steppe.

Elephant Heaven
Overall rating

When I was researching for the Footprints guidebook update, I asked my extremely experienced driver/guide which was his favourite park – he chose Tarangire. Many people overlook this smaller, less dramatic park in their haste to get to the Serengeti or Ngorongoro, which is a shame because it’s quite special in its own way and I can certainly see why it was my driver’s favourite. He loves elephants and Tarangire has one of the highest densities of elephant populations in Africa, particularly in the dry season when its river provides sustenance for thousands of elephants along with zebra, buffalo, wildebeest and the elegant eland. In the wet season, when I visited, the game is far sparser but the park still has a quiet charm, plenty of birdlife and a strangely fairy-tale like quality with masses of quirky baobab trees.

Seasonal Elephant Migration, Baobabs, Tarangire River Views
Overall rating

Tarangire can be very quiet during the rainy season. During the dry season, from July into October, the park is a first rate safari destination. It is notable especially for the large number of migratory elephants which congregate around the permanent water of the Tarangire River, as well as for large dry-season herds of zebras and wildebeest. Tarangire's landscapes are also alluring, with many baobabs and generally more vegetation than the Serengeti. During the dry season, I'd recommend planning at least two nights in Tarangire to appreciate all this. However, even for shorter itineraries, it's possible to have a very rewarding visit as the best wildlife watching is in the park's northern section, within easy access of the entrance gate.

Migratory Elephants in Tarangire National Park
Overall rating

Tarangire National Park is a very seasonal park with the Tarangire River acting as a magnet for migratory elephants and other ungulates in the dry season. Predators tend to follow the migration and the park is literally teeming with wildlife from July to October. The opposite season usually works better for Lake Manyara National Park. Birding is excellent year round, with birds of prey being the specialty. The park is very scenic with baobabs dominating the environment. “Little Serengeti” is the perfect area to head out late afternoon. The majestic baobab trees on the grassy plains make a beautiful silhouette for sunset photos. There are some lovely lodges tucked away in remote corners of the park, but I think the best place to be is in the heart of the park where all the elephant action is going on. I love sitting on the balcony of Tarangire Safari Lodge overlooking the magnificent view over the river, where elephants cross regularly throughout the day. If you’re not staying at this unpretentious tented camp, you should at least stop for a drink or lunch.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.8/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Rating Breakdown

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  • 3 star 4
  • 2 star 0
  • 1 star 0
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