Welcome to one of Africa's most underrated parks. Thanks to its proximity to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, Tarangire is usually assigned only a day visit as part of a larger northern-circuit itinerary. But it deserves a whole lot more, at least in the dry season. This is a place where elephants dot the plains like cattle, and where lion roars and zebra barks fill the night, all set against a backdrop of constantly changing scenery.
Tarangire has the second-highest concentration of wildlife of any Tanzanian national park (after the Serengeti) and reportedly the largest concentration of elephants in the world. The Tarangire ecosystem, with the park as its heart, also has more than 700 resident lions, and sightings are common. Less visible, but nonetheless present, are leopards and cheetahs. Sustaining them are large herds of zebras, wildebeest, hartebeests, elands, oryx, waterbucks, lesser kudus, giraffes and buffaloes. With more than 450 species, including many rare ones, Tarangire is among the best birdwatching destinations in Tanzania.
But this is one place where the wildlife tells only half the story. Dominating the park's 2850 sq km are some of Northern Tanzania's most varied landscapes. The great stands of epic baobabs should be reason enough to come, but there are also sun-blistered termite mounds in abundance, as well as grassy savannah plains and vast swamps. Cleaving the park in two is the Tarangire River, its meandering course and (in some places) steep riverbanks providing a dry-season lure for animals and thus many stirring wildlife encounters for visitors.
Come the short rainy season, the park changes completely, as its wild inhabitants disperse across the Maasai Steppe over an area 10 times larger than the park. This, too, is a Tarangire speciality: one of the park's greatest rewards is the chance to discern and tune into the seasonal rhythms of wild Africa.
Entry fees are valid for 24 hours, with a single entry only.