Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park is known for its large herds of elephants and huge baobabs. The name is derived from the Tarangire River that runs through the park. This river is more or less a small stream; its source is in the southern mountains of the park, from where it makes its way through the entire game reserve. In the north it makes a big bend to the west and ends in Lake Burungi.
In a really dry season, the Tarangire River may disappear in the sand, but reappear a bit downstream. So even at this time of the year it does not disappear completely and is therefore the only river that supplies the animals of the Maasai steppe with water without interruption. Therefore, during these dry seasons a lot of animals often gather along the river, a paradise for animal watching.
Facts and Figures
Area: 2.850 km²
Travel: 120 km from Arusha
Visitors: 162.000 / year
Known for: Elephants, ancient Baobab Trees
Activities: Game Drives, Walking Safaris, Maasai Village Cultural Tour
Tarangire National Park
The Tarangire National Park is about as big as the federal German state of Schleswig-Holstein. There are extensive plains here, including two large pans in the south, which turn into swamps depending on the season. After Serengeti, Ruaha and Mikumi, Tarangire is the fourth largest park in Tanzania. It is named after the Tarangire River, which rises from the mountains south of the park. This river winds its way from the extreme south through numerous rocky hilly landscapes, which are between 1000 and 1675 meters high, almost to the northernmost tip of the game reserve. Here it turns westwards in a swerve and flows into Lake Burungi, which has no outflow and is located in the north-east of the park. The river has water all year round. This is extremely important for the flora and fauna there.
February belongs to the intermediate dry season (i.e. between the rainy seasons). At this time the Tarangire National Park is a very important refuge for animals from the surrounding areas. They wander through an ecosystem that is huge. It ranges from Lake Natron in the north to the Maasai Steppe in the south, including Lake Manyara, which lies somewhere in between. The importance of the Tarangire River for wildlife is immense. As a permanent water source it determines all vegetation zones and landscapes of the park. In addition, the amount of water it provides is crucial to the migration of animals within the Tarangire ecosystem. When it has not rained for a long time, many animals from the park and the adjacent Maasai steppe come to the river to drink water, as most of the watering places in the neighbourhood have already dried up.
The park is divided into eight landscape zones, of which the southern swamps are only accessible in the initial area. The other zones are accessed by a sparse network of paths. The first zone of the park is located in the very north: As soon as you enter, you will certainly notice the imposing baobab trees (Adansonia digitata), which grow here in abundance, in the hilly landscape of the grass savannah. They are also known as baobab trees. They look quite bizarre with their barrel-shaped silvery trunk, which can have a diameter of up to 10 metres. These trees can live for almost 2,000 years, similar to the Sequoias in America. If you look up into the crown, you will see that from the trees elongated oval fruits hang down, which resemble bottle gourds. They contain many seeds that look like marshmallows and are eaten by Tanzanian children as “sweets”.
Why the baobab trees look so unusually plump is nicely described in an African fairy tale: When God created the world, he also created the baobab trees. But at the time of creation they still looked exactly like all other trees. But the baobabs were not satisfied with this uniform appearance. They constantly demanded changes from God that would make them stand out from the mass of their wooden relatives: They wanted to be taller, more beautiful and special. Out of anger at this constant nagging, God then uprooted the trees and put them back into the earth with the leafy crown. The leafless branches of the tree are therefore basically its roots, at least that’s what the fairy tale says. If the trees do not bear leaves, they really give this impression.
From June to October is the best time to see large numbers of wildebeest, elephants, zebras and wildebeest. Not all animals migrate, other animals like giraffes, impalas, eland, kudus, waterbucks, gazelles and sometimes rhinos or leopards can be observed all year round. The huge pythons and large herds of elephants attract more and more people. The park is also famous for migratory birds.
From a planning point of view the Tarangire National Park simply makes sense. The park is located almost halfway between Arusha and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. For those planning a longer safari, Tarangire National Park is also close to Lake Eyasi (home of the famous Hadzabe Bushmen) and Lake Manyara. Tarangire offers many excellent lodges and hotels in all price ranges. By the way, the nearby market town of Mto Wa Mbu is a great place to admire red bananas or buy last minute souvenirs for home.