Tarangire National Park has often described as Tanzania’s most underrated national park. Tarangire is one of Africa’s little-known gems and a must for any northern circuit itinerary.
Tarangire National Park boasts of a variety of African wildlife as diverse as its landscape. This Tanzania National Park is also home to Tanzania’s largest population of African elephants. With four of the Big Five also residing within this park, it is a great spot for a one day African safari trip in Tanzania from Arusha. It can also be added on to your Tanzania safari holiday that includes Serengeti/Ngorongoro centered itinerary.
The park is named for the Tarangire River which flows through it. Tarangire National Park is an excellent choice during the dry season. This is when animals are forced to move closer and closer to the river in search of water. Set against a backdrop of majestic baobab trees and twisted acacia, it makes for a beautiful experience.
Tarangire National Park History
Tarangire National park takes its name from the Tarangire River. Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Maa-speaking pastoral people expanded into the area, replacing other pastoral groups like Nilotes and farming Bantu groups. By 1880 the Maasai reached their greatest extent. Around 1900 they suffered pleuro-pneumonia and small pox diseases that killed many. At the same time the outbreak of the rinderpest decimated Maasai livestock and wildlife.
The colonial period of 1880s to 1950s saw the displacement of Maasai from lands with high potential for agricultural development by the European farmers/settlers. Many game parks were created at the same time, often evicting pastoralists from key dry season grazing areas and watering points. Because of the abundant water and pasture in the Tarangire ecosystem, it had a reputation as one of the best pastoral areas in Tanzania. Many herders who were evicted from the Serengeti National Park in the 1950s relocated to this area.
Tanzania became independent in 1961 and most of the British colonial administration/legislation was adopted by the new government. In the 1960s and 1970s the rinderpest that had previously killed many wildlife and livestock species was controlled. The control of rinderpest resulted in the increased numbers of wildebeest in the Serengeti ecosystem. This pushed Maasai into Tarangire area to avoid contact with wildebeest calving areas in the short grass-plains. Such areas are associated with the spread of Malignant Catarrhal Fever that affects cattle. Between 1962 and 1963 the worst drought in 50 years hit most parts of the country including Tarangire area and killed many wildlife and livestock.
In 1967 agriculture was promoted as the backbone of the national economy. Large-scale farms like the Lolkisale bean farms were established in Tarangire to produce crops for export as well as for national reserves during droughts and food shortage. Human population increased in Tarangire area due both to natural increase and immigration of agriculturists from nearby regions of Kilimanjaro and Arusha. This displaced Maasai pastoralists and wildlife from the best rangelands into more marginal areas.
In 1970, the Tarangire Game Reserve was upgraded to become Tarangire National Park. By the mid-1980s the movement of commercial interests and farmers into the area had expanded, blocking many traditional migratory routes for wildlife.
In 2001, the Tanzanian government turned over the National Ranching Company land at Manyrara Ranch to the Tanzania Land Conservation Trust to help conserve the wildlife migration corridor between Tarangire National Park and the calving grounds to the north on the Gelai Plains. Conservation easements are being used as conservation tools on the calving grounds east of Tarangire National Park on the Simanjiro Plains. Land-use planning informed by wildlife survey data is being tried to help conserve pastoral rangelands, wildlife migration routes, and calving grounds in the Northern Plains.
Activities in Tarangire National Park
With the exception of the critically endangered black rhinoceros, Tarangire is home to all of Tanzania’s most iconic animals – from the diminutive dik-dik to the towering African elephants and giraffes that attract visitors from all around the world.
In addition to these popular animals, the park is also home to three endangered animals that can be found nowhere else in the country: the fringe-eared oryx with its graceful horns, the towering greater kudu, and the tiny Ashy Starling.
Tanzania’s Largest Elephant Population
Tarangire’s claim to fame is its large elephant population – the largest in Tanzania. During the dry season, herds of up to 300 elephants can be seen digging in the apparently dry riverbed of the Tarangire River looking for underground streams.
Even during the wet season when other inhabitants of the park are able to scatter out across the entirety of the park’s 20,000 square kilometers, elephants remain a common sight thanks to their large numbers.
Between June and November of each year, Tarangire National Park plays host to a migration that, while not as impressive as the Serengeti’s legendary Wildebeest Migration, is nonetheless an impressive sight to see.
As other sources of water dry up, the Tarangire River becomes the park’s sole source of water and draws huge herds of wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, and hartebeests as well as the lions, leopards, and other predators who prey upon them.
During this period, Tarangire National Park offers fascinating wildlife viewing, as its dry landscape makes it easier to spot these large groups of animals on the move.
Located in the eastern and southern regions of the park, Tarangire’s swamp network offers a vital water catchment and sanctuary for the park’s elephants, Cape buffalo, and more than 500 species of bird.
A seasonal swamp that dries up during the dry season, the Tarangire swampland offers intriguing game viewing opportunities for those wishing to see wallowing elephants, the Silale swamp lions, tree-climbing pythons, and even the rare African wild dog.
Birdwatching in Tarangire National Park
With its wide variety of habitats and food sources, Tarangire National Park is a popular destination for birds and the people who love to watch them. With more than 550 species of bird – the highest number on all of Tanzania – Tarangire truly is a birdwatcher’s paradise.
The park’s woodlands are home to hoopoes, hornbills, brown parrots, and the white-bellied go away bird as well as game birds such as the helmeted guinea fowl, yellow necked spurfow, and the crested francolin.
Other popular inhabitants of the park include yellow-collared lovebirds, lilac breasted rollers, mousebirds, swifts, striped swallows, starlings, bee-eaters, Hammerkops, plovers, Kori bustards, bateleur eagles, steppe eagles, and the gigantic lappet-faced vulture. And that’s just naming a few!
Shadows of Africa can arrange specialty bird watching safaris for those interested. Contact us to find out more.
The Baobab Tree
Alongside the acacia, no plant is quite so synonymous with Africa than the noble baobab. Otherwise known as the Tree of Life, the baobab gets its distinct shape from the fact it can store anywhere between 300 and 1000 litres of water within its bloated trunk. Able to live up to 600 years, this venerable trees are particularly common in Tarangire National Park.
Legend has it that long ago, the baobab trees would roam across Africa on their roots until their movements angered God. He planted them upside down so that they would be forever bound to the one place.
From a more practical standpoint, the baobab is an important source of food for the animals of Tarangire National Park, with its seeds being edible and its bark being used by elephants to sharpen their tusks.
Within the park, the notorious ‘poacher’s hide’ can be seen. This former hiding place for ivory poachers is said to have hidden up to twenty hunters at a time during the illegal trade’s heyday.
Kolo Rocks Art Site
Located just outside the park, the Kolo Rocks is a proposed World Heritage site displaying ancient rock art left behind by ancient hunter-gatherers, as well as the remains of prehistoric rock shelters.
|Languages spoken||English, Kiswahili|
|Currency used||Tanzania Shillings (TSHS)|
|Area (km2)||2,600 SQ. KM.|