diverse wildlife in scenic landscape
Often overshadowed by the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park has a healthy population of animals, both big and small. Except for the critically endangered black rhino, the park 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.
The park is a perfect introduction to an African safari experience, where you come incredibly close to so many four-legged giants. Particularly large numbers of elephant herds congregate here, with up to 3,000 in the park during the peak months, as do many wildebeest and zebra. There are also substantial populations of impala, giraffe, eland, and buffalo. Thompson’s gazelle, Coke’s hartebeest, and both greater and lesser kudu are found here. 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.
However, the ecosystem here is balanced by a localized migration pattern that is followed by the majority of the game that resides in and around the park. Between June and November of each year, the 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 thousands of wildebeests and zebras are joined by Thomson’s gazelles, elands, hartebeests, and impalas.
There is also no shortage of predators in Tarangire, especially the big cats. While lions are a common sight in Tarangire, leopards, and cheetahs are less commonly spotted. You will need a good guide to encounter them but these animals are present and the more time you have, the more opportunity you have for an encounter. Thick vegetation makes it a challenge to find these solitary cats, and cheetahs, in particular, find it difficult hunting in the densely wooded park where their speed is nullified. They seem to favor the more open areas of the south Tarangire. Spotted hyenas are always around, and whilst wild dog does sometimes pass through; sightings of them are rare.
Birding in Tarangire
While most people visit Tarangire National Park during the dry season for wildlife viewing, it is during the wet season from March to April that Tarangire comes alive for bird lovers. With more than 550 species of bird housed within the swamps that are spread all over the park – the highest number on all of Tanzania – Tarangire truly is a birdwatcher’s paradise.
As the rains lead to the dispersing of the different animals due to the thickening of the vegetation in the area, it also comes with many migratory birds and other bird species. The park’s woodlands are home to hoopoes, hornbills, brown parrots, as well as game birds such as the helmeted guinea fowl, yellow-necked spurfowl, and the crested francolin. More ardent bird-lovers might keep an eye open for screeching flocks of the dazzlingly colorful Yellow-collared lovebird, and the somewhat drabber Rufous-tailed weaver and ashy starling – all endemic to the dry savannah of north-central Tanzania. Other popular inhabitants of the park include lilac-breasted rollers, mousebirds, swifts, striped swallows, starlings, bee-eaters, hammerkops, plovers, Kori bustards, bateleur eagles, steppe eagles, and the gigantic lappet-faced vulture.