Discover Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park

April 26, 2019

Join Unique Safaris and Make Your African Safari the Trip of a Lifetime

Hello, this is your host Tuck Mixon, and I’m here with Meg Katzman of Unique Safaris in Tanzania. Meg is Director of Sales and Marketing for Unique Safaris, and she’s been with them for over 25 years. Welcome, Meg. Hi Tuck, and welcome to our readers. Meg, you help people make their safari the trip of a lifetime. We always hear about the Serengeti National Park but Tarangire National Park is not mentioned as much.

What Makes Tarangire Special?

Tarangire is often under-rated and it deserves much more respect and interest. The park is located only 2.5 hours from Arusha town and is considered one of the most scenic parks in Tanzania. It also has the second-largest concentration of wildlife in Tanzania after the Serengeti National Park. The park is at its peak June-October, but it still offers wonderful mammals and birds all year round. The most important areas in the park are the Tarangire River and the surrounding wetlands.  These reliable sources of water attract wonderful wildlife and are the only sources of water in this very dry area of Maasai Land.

Elephants and Rock Pythons in Tarangire

The park is probably the most famous for its huge elephant population. There are 3,000 resident elephants all year round but they are joined by another 3,500 migratory elephants during the months of June-October. It is possible to see families as large as 100-300 individuals as they migrate into the park for water. The matriarchs have stored memory of these migratory routes and elephants come not only from Lake Manyara but also from as far away as the Serengeti and even from Amboseli in Kenya.

Elephants in Tarangire National Park

They often will congregate along the winding Tarangire River.  This is a sand river so there is always water easily found either in the river or by digging down a little bit in the sand.

Young calves are a frequent sight in Tarangire. Elephant poaching has been a huge concern and issue in Tanzania but there are definite signs of success. Researchers in Tarangire National Park report that the current population is the largest they have seen in years.

The surrounding wetlands are a wonderful source of water for drinking, bathing and playing. The large wetlands are also home to large numbers of rock pythons but the snakes are often forced out of the wetlands during the dry season months to avoid being crushed by elephants. Pythons prefer to live in the trees when forced out of the wetlands but often come to the ground to search for prey. It is considered a wonderful sighting if we can find pythons in trees or hunting or better yet with a kill!

Upside Down Trees?

Tarangire is also famous for a large number of ancient baobab trees that dot the landscape. It is one of the only locations in northern Tanzania where you can see these “upside-down trees” as they are sometimes called. When the trees are not in bloom the branches look like tree roots hence the reference to “upside-down” trees.  The baobab is the longest-living flowering tree and some of the oldest baobabs are estimated to be 1,000-3,000 years old. They can grow to be almost 100 feet in height and 36 feet in diameter. Many of the older trees are hollow inside or have fascinating shapes to their trunks. The trees attract many types of birds who like to nest in the baobab and elephants love the bark and shade they offer.

A Birding Haven

Tarangire is a birding haven and even non-birders enjoy the colorful birds of Tarangire including a diverse number of raptors. Ground hornbills are frequently seen in Tarangire as well as the beautiful parrots and love-birds.

All species of hornbills are seen throughout the park including the red-billed, the Vonder Deckens and the large grey hornbill. All hornbills are distinguished by large curved beaks and hey have strong neck muscles to hold their beaks. Hornbills have the curious behavior of nesting inside natural cavities in tree branches and trunks and the female is walled in while she incubates her eggs and feeds her young chicks. Hornbills are monogamous and travel in breeding pairs; the male feeds his female the entire time she is incubating and feeding her chicks.

Abundant Wildlife

Another unique feature in Tarangire are huge termite mounds.  They appear in all sizes and shapes and some are active homes for termites and some are abandoned mounds. Active mounds attract all sorts of wildlife that feed on insects- striped hyena, aardvark, honey badgers to name a few. Abandoned termite mounds are populated by snakes seeing cool shade and  banded mongoose

Leopard on Termite Mound

Even the big cats can be seen looking to cool off or have a slight vantage point for spotting prey.

While some people would be very happy to never see a snake while on safari, we need to acknowledge those travelers that are fascinated by the sight of a huge rock python resting in the trees near the wetlands.

There are some antelopes, such as the beautiful oryx that can be seen only in Tarangire. And even the lesser and greater kudu- a beautiful antelope with spiral horns.


Large troops of baboon are easily found and are a source of great entertainment.

Giraffes are abundant in the park as well.

Big Cats and Wild Dogs

Of course, all the big cats are found in Tarangire- the cheetah, lion, and leopard as well as the serval cat and caracal. You will often find the big cats in trees in Tarangire and the type of trees found in northern Tanzania allow cats to climb easily. They love the vantage point, the cooler temperatures and the ability to get away from the flies on the ground.

Leopards are in the trees more frequently than the lions and cheetah and they also seek the protection of the trees to feast on their prey and hide it from other predators that can easily chase a leopard off of a kill.

Wild Dog Cooling Off

The rarest of sightings in Tarangire is the wild dog but there is a pack of wild dogs that live in this area. If the dogs are denning with young pups then they remain in the relatively same area so they can hunt and return to feed their pups. If there are no young ones the wild dog can travel 40-50 miles each day hunting. The dogs hunt in packs and are incredibly effective and brutal predators. They prefer antelopes but will eat any prey they can chase down. The dogs are very successful hunters with an average successful kill 75% of the time. They are fast and have endurance and usually exhaust their prey before starting to feed. Wild dogs are one of the few species that will allow young pups to eat first.

The dogs are highly social and do not have a particular breeding season; females come into estrus and have an average litter size of 10 puppies. They are perhaps one of the rarest but most exciting finds in Tarangire.

Call Meg at 612-800-8701 to Find Out More

Meg, this information has been great. What would be the next step for people who are thinking about visiting Tanzania with Unique Safaris?

There are many questions that this presentation might stimulate for you.  Please don’t hesitate to call and learn more about what you might see and experience in Tanzania or to discuss the various itinerary options we have designed to get you started on planning.

Tarangire National Park

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