It is the vast number of baobabs that first capture the eye as you enter Tarangire National Park. The gently rolling countryside is dotted with these majestic trees, which seem to dwarf the animals that feed beneath them. The park is spectacular in the dry season when many of the migratory wildlife species come back to the permanent waters of Tarangire River. Huge herds of wildebeest, zebras, elephants, eland and oryx gather to stay in Tarangire until the onset of the rains when they migrate again to good grazing areas.
Tarangire National Park covers approximately 2,600 square kilometers and, in the dry season, is second only to Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area in concentrations of wildlife. Tarangire lies to the south of the large, open grass plains of southern Maasailand, and derives its name from the Tarangire River, which provides permanent water for wildlife in the area.
Most animals leave the area near the Tarangire River at the beginning of the short rainy season in October/November. The first to move are the numerous wildebeest and zebras, soon followed by Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles, buffaloes, eland, elephants, oryx and hartebeest. Only the resident species, which include waterbuck, impalas, warthogs, dikdiks, giraffes, rhinos and lesser kudus stay behind.
The second rainy season begins in March and at its peak the Tarangire animals are spread over an area of more than 20,500 sq/km of Maasai country. At the beginning of June the long rains end, the Maasai steppe dries up rapidly and the migratory species return to the Tarangire River.
Over 300 species of birds have been recorded in the Park, some of them Eurasian migrants that are present from October to April. More ardent bird-lovers might keep an eye open for screeching flocks of the dazzlingly colourful yellow-collared lovebird, and the somewhat drabber rufous-tailed weaver and ashy starling – all endemic to the dry savannah of north-central Tanzania.
Disused termite mounds are often frequented by colonies of the endearing dwarf mongoose, and pairs of red-and-yellow barbet, which draw attention to themselves by their loud, clockwork-like duetting. Tarangire’s pythons climb trees, as do its lions and leopards, lounging in the branches where the fruit of the sausage tree disguises the twitch of a tail.