Rift Safari
Traveling along the Rift Valley:
Tarangire National Park

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Tarangire National Park is located about 100km far from Arusha along the way leading to Manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti. Wild and picturesque it is the kingdom of elephants and baobabs. It covers an area of 2600 square kilometers, 100 km north to south and about 25 km east to west, however it is part of a much larger ecosystem that includes Lake Manyara, Lake Natron up to West Kilimanjaro; the Masai steppe; some game controlled areas and finally the Tarangire Conservation Area which attempts to reconcile human settlements and wildlife.

The northern area of the park develops around the wide bend of the Tarangire River. This sector tends to be initially flat as the most remote southern parts but after a few kilometers it turns into a landscape of gentle rolling hills beautiful in dry season and stunningly beautiful during the green season where huge and ancient baobab trees are the constant backdrop. These impressive, grotesque and spectacular trees are also an important element of the ecosystem serving both humans and animals: the seeds shells are used as water containers, medicines are derived from its leaves and fruit pulp; rope, paper and clothes are obtained from its bark; elephants use them to sharpen their tusks and, in time of drought, to get water from the hollow trunks.

The central area of the park, nearby the Silale swamps, is also very scenic and suitable for birds and elephants sightings especially during the dry season when the swamps tend to dry up and animals gather around the remaining small puddles of water. Tarangire is estimated to host about 500 species of birds including some migratory species such as the Russian steppe eagle. The best months for spotting birds are September-October and April-May.
During the green
season tracks could not be viable.


The southern sector of the park is wild and remote but hard to reach and therefore rarely visited.

The sodorous Lake Burunge, located westwards of the park, could also be worth a visit to enjoy the view against the Rift escarpment. During the dry season the lake dries up completely giving way to an expanse of gleaming salt.


Tarangire is finally the only northern national park within which some camps are licensed to carry on long walking safaris. Night game drives are possible in the Tarangire Conservation Area.

Very relevant when planning a safari to Tarangire are the animals migration/dispersal patterns which are explained below.

Tarangire National Park

THE TARANGIRE MIGRATION

Tarangire is crossed longitudinally throughout its length from the homonymous river that flows, after a large bend, into Lake Burunge just outside the park on the western edge. This river is the life-force of the park and the only source of water available in dry season [from June to October] within a very vast area,
co
ntingency that promotes in these months an extremely high concentration of animals second only to that of Serengeti and Ngorongoro:
only in Tarangire you can encounter matriarchal breeding families composed by over 100 individuals and sight 500 up to 1000 elephants just in one single day. The majority of these elephants have been born when poaching came to an end in the late '80 therefore it will not be easy to encounter here large bulls as it might happen in the Ngorongoro Crater however as far as numbers are concerned Tarangire is absolute winner and it can deliver a unique, very exciting experience. Except for rhinos, who have no longer been seen here since the late 80's due to the intense poaching, at this time of the year all northern circuit species can be found in Tarangire. Among herbivores there are wildebeests, giraffes, zebras, Thompson's gazelles, Grant's gazelles, impala, reedbuck, eland, waterbuck, fringed-ears oryx, hartebeest, ostriches, warthogs [they feed mostly on grass, berries and bark but also larvae], greater kudu and lesser kudu, duiker, dik dik and klipspringer to name a few. Among carnivorous you can sight lions, leopards, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, jackals, caracal, leopards and honey bustard. Bat-eared fox, striped hyenas, wild dogs and aardwolf are also around albeit very elusive and rarely sighted.

During the converse season [from November to May], due to availability of seasonal waterholes and new pastures away from the river valley, animals tend to disperse and migrate outside the park into an area of about 20.000 square kilometers: wildebeest and zebra move north and north-east into Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and Natron; buffalos, gazelles and antelopes move southwards into the game controlled areas and the Masai Steppe; the majority of elephants move northwards, eastwards and southwards. At this time of the year, although Tarangire looks absolutely beautiful, only a relatively small amount of animals remain inside the park and sightings are more difficult since they do not need to approach the river for water and they tend to be hidden by a replenished vegetation. Resident game includes a small number of elephants, waterbucks, impala, warthogs, kudus and giraffes.
Therefore, unlike the great Serengeti migration which tends to be compact and accessible as an entity for most of the year, the Tarangire migration
is interesting only in dry season when animals congregate, within the national park, in the Tarangire river valley. Furthermore while the great Serengeti migration is composed essentially by wildebeest and zebra, the Tarangire migration includes a larger number of species moving, as described, at different times in different directions.


JANUARY FEBRUARY AND MARCH

Weather: bright and sunny with possibility of severe downpours
Average Temperatures: max 28° - min. 18°
Landscape: tends to be green.

Recommended at this time of the year: 0 - 1 night

Unlikely Serengeti and Ngorongoro, in Tarangire these are the wettest months of the year although sunshine hours remain at high level [9 hours of sunshine out of 12 daylight hours]. At this time of the year the vast territory forming the Tarangire ecosystem should have greened up and the availability of waterholes beyond that of new pastures should have gradually enabled animals to disperse outside the park. By mid of January this trend is usually quite pronounced unless November's rains failed forcing animals to remain in the Tarangire river valley. According to the situation, some years sightings could be moderate some others they could be good although rarely excellent. Usually at this time we tend to skip Tarangire and prefer to visit Manyara except for longer safaris when a stop can be well justified if only to relax at the end of the trip in a very beautiful environment.

Accommodation in Tarangire

Tarangire migration January to March Bufalos, Tarangire

APRIL & MAY

Weather: bright and sunny with possibility of severe downpours up to mid-May
Average temperatures: max. 27° - min. 16°
Landscape: bright green

Recommended at this time of the year: 0 - 1 night

Within April all wildebeest and zebra calves should be born and these animals should have already left the park migrating north and north-east toward Manyara, Ngorongoro and Natron. Buffaloes, gazelles and antelopes should have reached the southern game controlled areas and the Masai steppe followed by predators such as lions and cheetahs. Elephants should have reached West kilimanjaro and Amboseli as well as spread out in the south and south-east game reserves. In other words only a relatively thin part of the game can still be found inside the park at this time and it includes some elephants, waterbuck, impala, warthogs, giraffe and kudu which however cannot be sighted so easily both because they do not need to approach the river to drink and because the vegetation has replenished. Usually in April and may we skip Tarangire and prefer to visit Manyara except for longer safaris when a stop can be well justified if only to relax at the end of the trip in a very beautiful environment. Visitors number is also low which in itself is already an incentive.

Accommodation in Tarangire

Animals dispersal out of Tarangire in April and May Tarangire, 1st may 2010

JUNE & JULY

Weather: rarely raining but the sky tend to become hazy
Averages temperatures: max. 28° - min. 13°
Landscape: generally dry.

Recommended at this time of the year: 1 - 2 nights

Rains patterns vary one year to another and May usually coincides, in northern Tanzania, with the beginning of the dry season. In Tarangire this trend tends to be particularly pronounced and rains in the second half of may rarely occur. The first animals to re-enter the park are eland ed oryx followed by elephants, zebras, wildebeest and predators. Because of the progressive drought the vegetation start to drop foliage and sightings are facilitated.

Accommodation in Tarangire

Tarangire migration in June and July Yellow-billed stork, Tarangire

AUGUST SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER

Weather: very rarely raining but the sky tend to be hazy until mid of august
Average temperatures: max. 28° - min. 15°
Landscape: very dry

Recommended at this time of the year: 1 - 2 nights

Undoubtedly the best months to visit Tarangire. Not only the entire cast of migratory animals should have re-entered the park concentrating along the river valley and the swamps but vegetation as well should be bare and devoid of foliage making sightings much easier.

Accommodation in Tarangire

Tarangire migration in August, September and October Tarangire, elephants

NOVEMBER & DECEMBER

Tempo: when the rains come the sky tend to clear and sunshine hours climb up to high level.
Average temperatures: max. 31° - min. 18°
Landscape: slowly starts to green up

Recommended at this time of the year: 1 - 2 nights

Statistically in November the rains start to come gradually greening up the pastures. Forecast on game movements are difficult. After 5 months in Tarangire, pastures are consumed and animals are desperate to move out but there's no action they can take regardless of rains. If rains occurred within mid of october, as it might happen in some years, then animals would have certainly begun to disperse beyond the park boundaries; however rains here tend to be very light, very unreliable and often insufficient to revive pastures and create seasonal watering sources which causes animals to be very reluctant to abandon the river. In years of severe drought they might be forced to move several kilometers away from the river to find food but they are also obliged to return back to it and predators will just be waiting them there. Game viewing tends to be good or very good and facilitated by the low level of foliage and grass. Having to choose between Manyara and Tarangire, in November we would go for Tarangire while in December we would probably opt for Manyara whose resident wildlife tends to be more reliable.

Accommodation in Tarangire

Tarangire migration in November and December White-headed Buffalo Weaver, Tarangire

TARANGIRE WEATHER

Kudu maggiore

January, February, March: unlikely Serengeti and Ngorongoro, these months tend to be the wettest of the year here in Tarangire. The sky is generally bright and sunshine hours remain at high levels [9 hours out of 12 daylight hours] but there's a risk of severe downpours.

April: the risk of heavy rains decreases. Sunshine hours remain quite high [8 out of 12] and the sky is generally bright.

May: anticipating the rains patterns of all northern parks, rains in Tarangire in May tend to decrease dramatically. The sky start to become hazy and sunshine hours drop slightly.

June and July: the risk of rainfall at this time of the year is virtually nil. The sky however tend to be hazy and sunshine hours remain slightly below the usual levels.

August, September and October: these are the driest months of the year. The sky could still be hazy in August but well improving in September and October.

November and December: when the short, light but also unreliable November rains arrive the sky start to brighten up and the average of sunshine hours per day reaches its peak within December.

NOTE: the above bar-graph represents the statistical average of rainy days per month and sunshine hours per day for Tarangire. It must be noted that as in the rest of the world in Tanzania as well the climate is changing and there are years in which, for instance, a month like April does not experience rains while traditionally dry months turn out to be wet. The chart and the relative comments should be taken as a reference guide but with no absolute value..