Tarangire National Park: The Complete Guide

An elephant stands beneath a baobab tree in Tarangire National Park

millionhope / Getty Images 

Map card placeholder graphic

Tarangire National Park

Address
XXVH+PGJ, Tanzania
Phone +255 27 250 3471

Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are without a doubt the most famous safari destinations in Tanzania. But if you travel a little further south, you’ll step off the beaten track and into the spectacular surrounds of Tarangire National Park. This lesser-known game reserve is often left off tourist itineraries in favor of its more famous neighbors; yet during the dry season, it has a greater concentration of wildlife per square kilometer than any other park in Tanzania. It takes its name from the Tarangire River, which is the area’s only source of permanent freshwater during the driest months. The park is defined by lush grasslands studded with ancient baobabs and sun-baked termite hills and is a key staging ground of the annual Great Migration.

Things to Do

There are many different ways to look for animals in Tarangire. You can self-drive or sign up for a guided jeep safari through your tour operator or lodge. Many camps also offer walking safaris, allowing you to venture into the bush with a field guide who will use tracking skills to introduce you to the park’s wildlife at close quarters. Tarangire is one of the few Tanzanian national parks to allow night drives within its boundaries, and these nocturnal adventures allow you to spot an entirely different cast of creatures than those encountered during the day. Once-in-a-lifetime experiences for those with cash to spare include sunrise hot air balloon safaris and fly camping excursions. The latter are offered by several of the park’s luxury lodges and involve sleeping under the stars in a private temporary camp.

Wildlife

Tarangire’s wildlife is as diverse as its habitats, which include grassland, riverine forest, and perennially green wetlands. It is home to four of the Big Five (rhinos being the exception) and has one of the biggest elephant populations in northern Tanzania. A wealth of different antelope species are attracted by the park’s excellent seasonal grazing, including dik-dik, impala, eland, Grant’s gazelle, and waterbuck. The park is also known for three regional specials: the vulnerable fringe-eared oryx, the graceful gerenuk, and the dwarf mongoose, which inhabits many of its abandoned termite hills. 

During the June to November dry season, the Tarangire plains host thousands of wildebeest, zebra, and Cape buffalo, all of whom gather here on their annual migration north to Kenya’s Maasai Mara. This abundance of prey attracts a plethora of predators (many of which are resident year-round but are easiest to spot during the migration). Keep an eye out for prides of lions, cheetah on the hunt, and leopards waiting for nightfall in the park’s twisted acacia trees. Spotted hyena and the endangered African wild dog are also much sought-after, while the smaller felines of Tarangire include caracal and serval.

Birding

The national park is also one of the best birding destinations in Tanzania. Over 550 avian species have been recorded here, many of them attracted by the Silale Swamps, which remain green year-round. The swamps support more breeding bird species than any other single habitat on Earth. Many birders come in search of Tanzanian endemics including the Rufous-tailed weaver, ashy starling, and yellow-collared lovebird. Other specials include the vulturine guineafowl and the northern pied babbler, both of which are at the extremity of their range in Tarangire, and the bushveld pipit. 

Raptors are commonly spotted and include iconic species such as the bateleur eagle and the lappet-faced vulture. A particular highlight for many first-time visitors to East Africa is the pygmy falcon—a tiny species that inhabits weaver bird colonies and is the smallest bird of prey on the continent. During the rainy season, the park’s rich insect life attracts countless migratory birds from Europe and Asia. 

Where to Camp

If you’re planning a self-drive camping trip, there’s a public campsite located near the main park gate with toilets, showers, and a cooking area. You’ll need to bring your own drinking water, firewood, and all your ingredients and utensils but this is definitely the cheapest (and arguably the most authentic) option in Tarangire. Just outside the park, Tarangire Treetops is a special option with 20 rooms built on stilts amidst a thicket of baobab and marula trees. The central lodge is built around a 1,000-year-old baobab and features a gourmet boma restaurant. 

Where to Stay Nearby

There are several accommodation options inside Tarangire National Park, ranging from luxury resorts to more budget-friendly camps.

  • Oliver’s Camp by Asilia: Located in the remote southern reaches of the park, Oliver’s has 10 decadent safari tents, all overlooking the Minyonyo Pools and equipped with ensuite bathrooms and solar power.
  • Sanctuary Swala: This hotel offers 12 canvas pavilions, each of which has a private deck overlooking the camp’s watering hole.
  • Kichuguu: For tighter budgets, Kichuguu, an affordable option with single, double, and family rooms in addition to a communal dining area. 

How to Get There

If you plan on driving to Tarangire National Park, there are paved roads from Arusha (87 miles/140 kilometers to the northeast) and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (100 miles/160 kilometers to the northwest). The nearest airports are Arusha Airport, Kilimanjaro International Airport, or the Kuro airstrip, located in the southern section of the park itself. Self-drive enthusiasts can drive their own cars into and around the park.

Accessibility

Although walking safaris are available, most game drives are done from the comfort of a vehicle. Visitors with disabilities may find tour operators in the park that specialize in accessible tours, which use wheelchair-friendly safari vehicles and utilize accessible hotel rooms and camps. You can find accessible tours with agencies and operators like Disabled Access Holidays, Go2Africa, and 2by2 Holidays.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Tarangire is not visited as often by safari-goers in Tanzania, which means it tends to be less crowded than the country's other national parks.
  • Ask your guides about Omo, a rare white giraffe who was first spotted in the park in 2015.
  • Tarangire National Park has a temperate climate with temperatures that change according to elevation rather than the time of year.
  • The dry seasons run from January to the end of February and from June to October, while the rainy season is divided into the short rains (from November to December) and the long rains (from March to May). Generally, the dry season is considered the best time to travel as it coincides with the arrival of the Great Migration and affords the best game viewing.
  • The rainy season is a good time to visit for birders as summer migrants will have arrived and resident birds are sporting their colorful breeding plumage.
  • There is a higher risk of malaria during the rainy season, although prophylactics are recommended for visitors to Tarangire year-round.
  • If you have time, consider combining your visit to Tarangire with a trip to adjacent Lake Manyara National Park. Located just 43 miles (70 kilometers) away, it’s famous for its tree-climbing lions and for the vast flocks of flamingos that adorn its eponymous soda lake. 
Was this page helpful?
Back to Article

Tarangire National Park: The Complete Guide