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Tarangire National Park

At 2,600kmĀ², Tarangire is far from being the biggest of the Tanzanian parks, but its unrivalled landscape of open plains, dotted with thousands of baobabs, is unforgettable. About 120kms south of Arusha on the Dodoma road, Tarangire rivals the Serengeti for the size of the game herds that congregate here at peak season (June to November). This is when many of the animals crowd around the only source of permanent water in the park, the Tarangire River. This is also the best place in Tanzania to see really big herds of elephant - up to 300 at a time.

Tarangire National Park contains nine different vegetation zones, each supporting distinct types of wildlife. The park is named after the Tarangire River that runs through the center of the park providing the only permanent water source in the area. Tarangire is thus a dry season habitat (between July and November) because of the perennial water in the Tarangire River that attracts wildlife from much of the Northern Circuit ecosystems beginning in August.

By October, the park is full, the population swelled by mini-migrations of wildebeest and zebra that join the vast herds of elephant at the water holes. However, there is a permanent and sizeable resident population throughout the year, including all the predators (lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and hunting dog), elephant and some mammals rarely seen in the other parks of the Northern Circuit, such as Kudu and fringe-eared Oryx.

Tarangire is another park known for its tree-climbing lions, and for its very big herds of buffalo. This is one of Africa's little-known gems and should be on the itinerary of all lovers of wilderness and solitude. The game numbers are staggering: 30,000 zebra, 25,000 wildebeest, 5,000 buffalo, 3,000 elephant, 2,500 Maasai giraffe and over 1,000 fringe-eared oryx (gemsbok). Predators include lion, cheetah and leopard, and birders will want to look out for the endemic ashy starling, rufous-tailed weaver and black-collared lovebird.