Tarangire National Park

TARANGIRE NATIONAL PARK, Tanzania — Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park is famous for its elephants and baobab trees, but you’ll also find an incredible range of other animals here, including some of the big cats.

Tarangire National Park Zebras in the Water
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Although it’s not as well known as its neighbors, the Serengeti or the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park (pronounced Tarrangeeri, with those distinctive clipped vowels and the hint a rolled r’s of a Tanzanian or South African accent) is larger than the entire island of Zanzibar. But as large as it is, it’s still only the sixth largest national park in Tanzania, thanks to some remarkably forward-looking conservation and environmental policies enacted by the Tanzanian government since independence in the 1960s–something near 30 percent of the country has been set aside as either national park or conservation area. And only 3-4 hours outside of Arusha, Tarangire is easy to get to and is a prime stop of Tanzania’s northern safari circuit.

If elephants are your thing (or baobab trees, although that’s a little more niche), Tarangire is brimming with them. The park is reputed to have the highest concentration of elephants in the world, something on the order of 3,000 or so. Within a few hours of driving along the park’s rugged, dusty roads, you’re likely to come across many hundreds.

But Tarangire is not just about elephants and baobab trees. In the dry season, when animals gravitate to one of the two main water sources in park–the long, flat swamps or the namesake Tarangire River that winds through the park–it ranks only behind Serengeti for the concentration of native wildlife. There are, of course, not fences around the parks so as to encourage the natural migrations, so in the wet season, when the animals are less constricted in where they find water, they disperse across the Maasai Steppe.

Depending on the time of year you’re there, you won’t go long without seeing zebras, wildebeest, waterbucks, warthogs, cranes, giraffes, dick dicks, ostriches, baboons, and velvet monkeys. And there are big cats–lions and leopards–although the large spaces and the many hiding places created by the rolling savanna mean that they’re not as easy to spot here as in Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater. And if you prefer your critters with wings, you’ll find hundreds of varieties of birds; the swamp has an especially dense collection of nesting birds in season.

There’s quite a mix of landscapes at Tarangire. Much of it is open, rolling savanna, but there are some areas of grassland plain (such as the area known as the Small Serengeti) and some extensive, flat swamps in the southeastern part of the park.

Photos of Tarangire National Park

Tarangire National Park Elephant Walk
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Baobab Trees Sunset
Baobab trees. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Zebra Herd with Grass
One of the theories for why zebras have stripes is that it works as a camouflage when they’re in groups, so predators have trouble distinguishing where one animal ends and another starts. You can see that at work here to some extent. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Lion
A lioness on the prowl. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Elephant with Mountain
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Zebras in Reed Lake
A small lake covered in lily pads. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Vervet Monkey Adult and Child
Vervet Monkeys. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Baobab Tree Sunset
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Elephant at Watering Hole
There are a lot of elephants in this park. This one had the longest tusks of any I came across. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Male Impala with Grass
Impala. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Pair of Acacia Trees at Sunset
Acacia trees. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Elephant Swimming
An elephant takes a dip in the water (covered in lily pads), making sure to keep its trunk out. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Old Elephant
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Marabou Stork on a Branch
Marabou stork. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Acacia Tree Sunset
Acacia tree. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Young and Parent
I couldn’t get The Baby Elephant Walk out of my head. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Baobab Tree Sunset
A baobab tree. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Zebra Bird
The symbiotic relationship between a zebra and oxpecker. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Elephant Face
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Zebras with Elephants
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Picnic Ground
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Sign Feeding of Animals is Prohibited
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Olive Baboon Family
Olive baboons. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Baobab Tree Silhouette
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Superb Starling
Superb starling. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Adult Elephant Eating
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Trees and Landscape
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Giraffe
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Landscape
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Baby Elephant Walk
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park African Bees
The bees found the honey at breakfast. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Elephant Front
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Overlook
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Ostriches
Ostriches. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Zebra Front Side View
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Herd of Elephants Walking
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Adult Elephant
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Tarangire River View
The Tarangire River that provides the hub for so much of the wildlife in the park. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Elephants Swimming
Taking a dip in the lily-covered pond. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Zebra
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Elephant
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Pride of Lions
A pride of lions lounging in the shade during the middle of the day. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Elephant in Lake
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Adult and Young Elephant
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Elephant Mother and Child
Sticking close. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Zebra and Elephant
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Tarangire River Water Source
The Tarangire River. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Baby Elephant
A couple of elephants caked in mud near the river. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Elephant Family
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Elephant Mud
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Two Elephants Playing
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Herd of Elephants in the Shade
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Marabou Stork
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Marabou Storks on a Tree
More marabou storks. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Tarangire River
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Young Zebra
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Wildebeest (Gnu)
A wildebeest (also known as gnu). Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Tarangire National Park Entrance with Safari Vehicles
At the park entrance. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel

What to Know Before You Go

  • It’s possible to do Tarangire as a day trip from Arusha, but even if you leave at 7am you won’t get into the park before 10:30 or 11. You’ll then have a few hours in the park before having to leave. Doing that, you’ll surely see quite a few animals. But most animals are least active in the heat of the middle of the day. And you’ll be limited in how far you can venture into the park. If you plan for at least a full day, or even 2 or 3 days, you’ll not only have the chance to explore in the beautiful light of early morning and late afternoon, but you’ll also be able to venture further afield, including to the swamp the other side of the park, which shows a completely different type of landscape.
  • While there isn’t a huge range of lodging options available, there are budget campsites inside and outside the park as well as lodges and luxury camping inside the park.
  • Unless you’re staying at one of the lodging options inside the park, you can’t enter before 6am or leave after 7pm. Because it’s so close to the equator, sunrise and sunset are consistently about 6:30am/pm year round.
  • Every park has different wildlife patterns. At Tarangire, it’s often easier to see a greater concentration and variety of animals in the dry season because the animals congregate around the water sources.
  • There are tsetse flies at Tarangire. A small percentage of them have been found to carry human African Trypanosomiasis, commonly known as sleeping sickness.
  • Be prepared for sun and dust, especially in the dry season. Make sure to take in with you enough water for the day. And cover up against bugs.

More About Tarangire National Park

  • Location: Northern Tanzania
  • Established in 1970
  • Size: Approximately 2,850 square kilometers (1,100 square miles)
  • Known for its large elephant population
  • Home to diverse wildlife species
  • Features the Tarangire River as a primary water source
  • Named after the Tarangire River
  • The landscape includes savannah, grasslands, and wooded areas
  • Boasts over 550 bird species
  • Contains termite mounds and baobab trees
  • Wildlife migration occurs during the dry season (June-October)
  • Offers wildlife viewing, birdwatching, and guided walking safaris
  • Park boundaries include village lands and wildlife management areas
  • Operated by Tanzania National Parks Authority
  • Accessible through Tarangire airstrip and a network of roads
  • Nearby attractions include Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Tarangire National Park is a premier wildlife destination located in Tanzania, East Africa. Established in 1970 as a protected zone, it covers an area of 2,850 square kilometers.

The park is located within the Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem. And it’s characterized by diverse vegetation including acacia woodlands, swamps, and grasslands.

The park is known for its large elephant population, but it also hosts a variety of other wildlife species such as lions, giraffes, wildebeest, zebras, buffalo, impalas, gazelles, elands, and hartebeests. And for bird watchers, it’s particularly rich, with over 500 bird species recorded there.

One of the most striking features of the park is the presence of ancient baobab trees, which are iconic symbols of the African landscape. These trees can live for thousands of years and provide essential resources for wildlife, such as nesting sites for birds and water storage in their trunks.

The best time to visit Tarangire National Park is during the dry season from June to October, when wildlife congregates around the Tarangire River, providing excellent game viewing opportunities. The climate in the park is tropical savannah, with warm temperatures throughout the year and seasonal rainfall patterns.

To access Tarangire National Park, the closest airport is Arusha Airport (ARK), which offers domestic flights from major cities in Tanzania. From there, it is possible to arrange ground transportation to the park.

Tarangire National Park FAQs

Where is Tarangire National Park located?

Tarangire National Park is located in northern Tanzania, approximately 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of the city of Arusha.

How big is Tarangire National Park?

Tarangire National Park covers an area of approximately 2,850 square kilometers (1,100 square miles).

What is Tarangire National Park known for?

Tarangire National Park is famous for its large population of elephants and iconic baobab trees. The park is also home to various wildlife species, including giraffes, wildebeest, zebras, and more than 550 bird species.

What activities can I enjoy at Tarangire National Park?

Visitors to Tarangire National Park can enjoy game drives, guided walking safaris, and birdwatching tours to explore the diverse landscapes and observe the rich wildlife.

What is the best time to visit Tarangire National Park?

The best time to visit Tarangire National Park is during the dry season, which occurs between June and October. Wildlife viewing is generally better during this time as animals tend to gather around water sources.

David Coleman / Photographer

David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my gear reviews and tips here. More »