Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park is in the northern part of Tanzania with an area of 2600 sq km which is considered as the main wildlife refuge in the country .It was named after the Tarangire River, which has its sources in the Kondoa Mountains in the centre of the country, and which crosses the whole park lengthwise from North to south. It lies along the Dodoma road 120km from Arusha town; it can be reached by car.
The Tarangire river which crosses the park lengthwise, giving support to a large wildlife population during the dry season between June and October, this park is characterized with nine different areas of vegetation ,and in places there is a large predominance of baobab trees. They are also plenty of flat-topped acacia trees which provide ideal grazing for thousands of animals including herds of elephants, wildebeest, zebras, buffaloes, impala, giraffes, waterbuck, eland , hartebeest and many more migrate from Maasai steppe to the Tarangire River .
Tarangire Park is a home to about 500 species of birds, some of which can be seen on drier ground, rocks and some is forest.
The best time to visit is from July to November
The fierce sun sucks the moisture from the landscape, baking the earth a dusty red, the withered grass as brittle as straw. The Tarangire River has shriveled to a shadow of its wet season self. But it is choked with wildlife. Thirsty nomads have wandered hundreds of parched kilometers knowing that here, always, there is water.
Size: 2,600 sq km.
Location: 118 km southwest of Arusha.
Getting there: Easy drive from Arusha or Lake Manyara following a surfaced road to within 7 km of the main entrance gate; can continue on the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. Charter flights from Arusha and the Serengeti.
What to do: Guided walking safaris. Day trips to Maasai and Barabaig villages, as well as to the hundreds of ancient rock paintings in the vicinity of Kolo on the Dodoma Road.
When to go: Year round but dry season (June-September) for sheer number of animals.
Accommodation: One lodge, one tented lodge, one luxury tented camp inside the park, another half-dozen exclusive lodges and tented camps immediately outside its borders. Camp sites in and around the park.
Description: This park is known for its elephants. You will see these enormous creatures travel in families and you surely will not miss the extraordinary care they take of their young. The elephants tend to travel in packs and in the same paths as they have taken year after year. When they see your vehicle coming closer they will gather around their young to protect them and lead them on their way. Here you will have the opportunity to simply sit and watch. Also in this park is the Tarangire River. This river winds through the middle of the park providing nourishment for the animals and great viewing for visitors. Daily large herds of animals and birds gather around this river so you will be sure not to miss anything. It also boasts many Baobab trees, impressive trees that can live for thousands of years. Animals can be found in the rainy seasons, but the concentration of wildlife tends to be better during the dry seasons.
Location: Almost directly between Arusha and Ngorongoro Crater.
Things to Do: Game Drives, guided walks (from select accommodations only) and night game drives (from Tarangire Treetops and Whistling Thorn only)
Time: Minimum of one night but two is better.
Animals: Though cheetahs are rare, you’ll find pretty much all the animals you will see on safari except rhinos. The region also boasts more than 550 bird species!
Area: 2,850 sq km
For many people who have spent years in the African bush, Tarangire is their favorite national park on Tanzania’s richly endowed northern circuit. Looking down from the high ridge, it is not difficult to see why; the Tarangire River winds away into the distance, through open, undulating country.
The Tarangire River, from which the park takes its name, supplies the park with its livelihood and becomes the dry season magnet for the vast herds of wildlife that must come down to drink. Tarangire is central to Tanzania’s northern circuit making it the perfect place to begin or end an African safari.
Oryx, gerenuk, elephant, baobab, lesser kudu, wild dog, lion, kori bustard, ground hornbill, ostrich, yellow-collared lovebird, rufus-tailored weaver, ashy starling, dwarf mongoose, red-and-yellow barbet, 550 bird varieties— Largest concentration of wildlife after Serengeti.
Imagine hundreds of zebra stripes reflecting in still waters. Imagine the looming silhouette of elephants burnt into the crimson sunset. Imagine the sight of ghostly baobab trees scattered across shimmering grasslands. These features are not figments of imagination – these features are just a taste of what Tarangire is all about! Tarangire is a hidden wonder of Tanzania that deserves special consideration in the itinerary of any safari enthusiast, especially during its prime in the dry season when huge masses of animals stream into the park for its perennial water supply.
During the dry season, when the sun has baked all moisture from the surrounding landscapes, a menagerie of different shapes and sizes of animals are lured to the enticing waters of the Tarangire River and seasonal swampland. The green season in Tarangire can also be incredibly rewarding as there are fewer crowds, many resident animals can still be seen (including large numbers of elephants) and the lush landscape is washed in vivid emerald foliage making a spectacular backdrop for photography.
Tarangire National Park measures 1,600 squares miles and is Tanzania’s fifth largest park. The park is named after the life-giving Tarangire River that provides the only permanent water for wildlife in the area. The river is a magnet for wildlife during the dry season when massive concentrations of elephant, buffalo, wildebeest and zebra congregate along its banks. Tarangire has a special character all its own, and is especially well known for a few outstanding highlights that are spotlighted below.
The most spectacular feature of Tarangire is that it serves as a place of refuge for the largest elephant population in northern Tanzania. These graceful giants were poached heavily during the 1980s, but there numbers have now dramatically rebounded. Approximately 3,000 elephants were counted during the last census in the year 2000. Since 2000, the elephant population has continued to rise at an increasing rate as Tarangire is currently experiencing an elephant ‘baby boom’. While out on safari, you will notice that a large proportion of the elephants encountered are less than 10 years old and baby elephants are abundant. Elephant viewing in Tarangire is outstanding and it is likely that you will see between 100 to 400 elephants in a single day. If you’ve ever seen an elephant, especially in the wild, you know what an awesome presence these graceful giants have. Words cannot describe the feeling that transpires when you take that awe and multiply it by the sheer mass of elephants that one can find in Tarangire! Set against stunning scenery, elephant viewing will undoubtedly prove to be one of the biggest highlights for a safari in Tarangire.
The Tarangire River runs up the center of the park through diverse habitats and varied topography. Gentle rolling hills interspersed with giant baobab trees, open acacia woodlands and seasonal swamps provide a spectacular and picturesque setting. Well-known regions of Tarangire that are easily visited include Lemiyon, Matete, Burungi and Kitibong as well as the Tarangire River itself. Each area is unique and has its own secret wonders to reveal. A memorable sight are the mystical baobab trees that can be seen in large numbers along some of the park’s northern game circuits – giant wonders of nature, these silvery, massive trees seem to dwarf the animals that graze underneath them.
Due to the diversified bio-network of habitats, there are incredible opportunities to view many types of animals. In addition to the migrating herbivores (including buffalo, wildebeest and zebra) there are numerous resident animals that remain inside Tarangire National Park year round. Resident herbivores that you will likely encounter any time of year include elephant, mongoose, giraffe, bushbuck, rock hyrax, hartebeest, dik-dik, impala, waterbuck, warthog and reedbuck. Elephants are both migratory and resident; although some elephants leave, most stay inside the park year round. Primates include olive baboon, vervet monkey and bushbaby. Hippo and black rhino have been unfortunately poached to local extinction in Tarangire. With a little luck you may encounter some rare antelope species such as lesser kudu, eland and fringe-eared oryx. Another rare animal that has recently been seen again in Tarangire is the African wild hunting dog.
Carnivores include lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and jackal. Lions are abundant in Tarangire and are regularly encountered. It is possible to see large prides during the drier months when they are more stationary by the Tarangire River and swamps. Tarangire also affords surprisingly good leopard viewing with many safaris recording at least one leopard sighting on an average two-day visit to the park. On the other hand, cheetahs live at low densities in Tarangire and are only seen once or twice a year. African wild hunting dogs occupy Tarangire from time to time as well as the surrounding areas in the Maasai Steppe; the African wild hunting dog is critically endangered and since the mid 1990s has only been seen occasionally in the northern parks of Tanzania with the exception of Tarangire and the Northern Serengeti.
Tarangire boasts one of the most diversified parks in East Africa for birding. The park is especially good for raptors and even the non-birding enthusiast will be astounded by the abundance and diversity of these powerful air borne predators. Raptors regularly seen include the bateleur eagle, tawny eagle, long-crested eagle, martial eagle, fish eagle and spotted eagle owl.
It is interesting to note that the Tarangire National Park encompasses just a small portion of the total area of the Tarangire ecosystem. In fact, the Tarangire ecosystem is 13 times the size of the park! The borders of the ecosystem are defined by the migrating herbivores. The migrating animals use Tarangire during the dry season and migrate to the surrounding ecosystem during the green season. The main migratory herbivores are buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. These animals migrate out of the park and disperse east in December at the beginning of the green season. The migrating herds start to return from the greater ecosystem and make their way back into the park around June at the beginning of the dry season. The migration takes place in part because the soil in the park is deficient in phosphorus. Thus the migratory animals scatter onto village lands, beyond the safety of the park borders, in search of mineral-rich forage to accommodate their dietary needs. During the dry season, the migrating herds are forced back inside the park due to the lack of permanent sources of water outside the park. The park has large areas of wetlands including the Gursi and Silale swamps that act as sponges and supply the Tarangire River during the dry season.
The wildlife rhythms of Tarangire are almost directly opposite those of the Serengeti. Tarangire comes into its own during the dry season (July – November) when enormous populations of elephants and other animals are drawn to the Tarangire River and other sources of permanent water within the park. The prime wildlife season starts to ramp up in June at the beginning of the dry season. During June and July, the surrounding areas begin to dry out and many of the animals begin to migrate back into Tarangire from the greater ecosystem. During August, September and October, the outlying areas are completely parched. This is the best time to visit Tarangire since massive herds of buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and elephant will congregate around the remaining rivers and swamps inside the park boundaries.
Sporadic showers are expected in Tarangire in late November. These showers and the continued light rains in December disperse the large herds of zebra and wildebeest into the surrounding ecosystem. From January to May, most of the migratory animals will have dispersed into the greater ecosystem however the park will still support many resident animals including the large herds of elephants. Tarangire is an incredible park that will reserve a special place in your heart and memories. Rest assured – no matter what time of year you choose to visit Tarangire, you’ll certainly be glad you did!
The afternoon sky burns vivid blue, without a cloud in sight. The sun’s fierce rays soak the moisture from the dusty red earth and sear the grassy plains to a tawny ghost of its former verdant self. It is in this time of year, the dry season (July to October), when Tarangire National Park is teeming with wildlife – drawn to its flowing perennial water supply. A menagerie of different shapes and sizes of animals flock here from miles around, lured to the enticing waters of the Tarangire River and seasonal swampland.
Long columns of wildebeest, zebra, impala, and gazelle file in great numbers to the receding banks of the river. Masses of giraffe, buffalo and hartebeest crowd the receding lagoons and waterholes. Even though these animals have found water, a vital source of life, this sustenance comes not without its own dangers. Predators like lions and leopards are drawn like a magnet to this smorgasbord of concentrated prey. Birds flock to these waters as well, and many varied species can be photographed and studied here.
It is interesting to note that the wildlife in Tarangire migrates in a cyclic patter over a year. The soil in the park is deficient in phosphorus, forcing the wildlife to leave their protected haven and cross the park boundaries to search for mineral-rich forage. Most of this land belongs to the pastoral Maasai communities, who have historically coexisted with the migrating herds since they rely primarily on their cattle for sustenance and do not traditionally hunt wild animals. However, a growing human population and a shift toward agriculture have placed an ever-increasing strain on these supporting areas.
Dry season or green season, the park is most famous for its dense elephant population. Huge numbers of elephants, of all shapes and sizes, can be seen resting in the shade or digging in the soil for underground streams. These nimble giants trump to one another across the river and dust themselves red with Taragire’s brick colored earth.
The yellow-barked Fever Tree grows in groves along the clay shores of the river. Statuesque and almost ghost-like in appearance, it thrives in the poorly drained clay soil where many other species of tree fail to grow, thus being the most dominant type of tree along the riverbanks. Called the “Fever Tree” by early travelers and explorers, it was mistakenly thought to cause malaria since many people contracted the disease when camping in its locality. However, the relationship was purely coincidental, as the malaria-carrying mosquito simply favors the same moist, riverside conditions as the tree!
Bahor reedbuck may also be seen strolling in the tall elephant grass and reeds near the river. The males of this species have short, forward curving horns. Reedbucks will emit a shrill whistle when startled and bound away with a distinctive “rocking horse” gait. These antelope are often confused with impala, but can be distinguished by its uniform sandy-red coat and bushy tail with a white “flag”.
Lemiyon is the first region of Tarangire National Park that one initially comes across after turning off the Great North Road at Kwacuhinja village and passing through the park’s entry gate. This pristine area is tucked in the northernmost end of the park, and if viewing a map one can see it lies within a triangular shaped zone with the eastern and western boundaries forming the sides and the Tarangire River establishing most of the base. To the west is the Burungi Circuit, Lake Burungi and the Tarangire river; to the east of the road is the Matete region.
The surrounding landscape is comprised of broken grassland and varied woodlands, including an extensive region of various types of acacia trees. The earth here is made up of dark black volcanic matter, very fine in texture, and is called “black cotton soil”. The most common trees here are the flat topped or the “umbrella” acacias, stretching their thorny canopies over the grasses below like a great sunshade and forming impressive silhouettes against the horizon. Mahogany trees soar overhead, and Toothbrush bushes peek above the grassy landscape in their vivid green garb.
The most striking form of vegetation in this area of the park is certainly the impressive baobab trees that loom alongside the road with their colossal silvered trunks and mass of gnarled branches. Hauntingly beautiful, these massive trees are rumored to host ghosts and spirits, and in truth do seem to take on a personality all their own. They appear almost surreal in nature and seem to dwarf the animals that graze underneath them. Baobab trees are hollow, and in a practical sense serve the rest of nature as reservoirs for water, nesting trees for hornbill and even wild beehives.
Vast flocks of red-billed quelea birds fly about, seeking seeds in bushed grasslands. Tarangire offers especially good raptor viewing and even the non-birding enthusiast will be astounded by the abundance and diversity of these powerful airborne predators. Raptors regularly seen include the tawny eagle, long-crested eagle, martial eagle and fish eagle.
A bird of prey that is seen often in this area is the bateleur eagle. This large and beautiful raptor has rich brown upper body feathers, a striking orange beak and a very short tail. Immature bateleur eagles have lighter brown almost chocolate colored feathers. The bateleur eagle is generally seen soaring through the skies over Tarangire, and is capable of sensational aerobatics. When hunting prey, it is capable of descending through the air with great speed and power.
Both wildebeest and zebra can be seen grazing or frolicking over the rolling countryside here. Also common are hartebeest, gazelle and elephants.
Commonly encountered predators in Lemiyon include lion, leopard, hyena and jackal. Wild African Hunting dogs may also be encountered, although these are rare. Nocturnal creatures include the civit and genet cat. Genet cats are slender and beautiful creatures, very lithe and catlike, with short grey fur, a narrow muzzle and round ears. The tail is thickly ringed with dark brown and it has endearing little white patches below large expressive eyes. Genets usually sleep away the heat of the day in a tree, and become active only at night or in the early morning.
Located in the northeastern region of Tarangire and the Engelhard Bridge (also known as Matete Bridge) that crosses the Tarangire River, Matete is an exquisite land of tall elephant grass and open acacia woodlands. The occasional baobab tree is also encountered here, towering over the rest of the flora and fauna of the landscape.
Matete actually gets its name from the high elephant grass and spiky reeds that grow on the riverbanks on the western side of the region. It is also interesting to note that Engelhard Bridge was named after a patron whose family helped preserve Tarangire National Park.
As mentioned above, the Matete region is distinguished by its open acacia woodlands scattered with baobab trees, but most prominent is the river flowing along the western side of Matete that entices many animals to drink from its banks during the dry season. The water is alkaline, but the animals seem to have developed a tolerance for the amount of salinity it contains. The airstrip in this area is a great place to capture pictures of elephants silhouetted against the sunset. There is a mountain that stands outside the park called Lolkisale that can also be seen from this area.
Many different types of animals are partial to the habitat provided by Matete’s open acacia woodland and grasslands. The flat-topped canopies of acacia tortillas trees make the ideal nesting site for various types of birds, especially since it keeps their precious eggs away from the reach of predators. Acacia tortilis trees are easily recognizable by their knarled branches, long thorns, and flat “umbrella-like” canopy of leaves.
The exquisite antelope called the Oryx also inhabits the Matete area, although the numbers of these antelope have now dwindled so low that they are rarely seen. They are very beautiful animals, and quite large in size. Their coat is grey with black stripes along the spine, white undercoat, black stripes where the face attaches to the neck, and black and white facial markings. Both male and female Oryx sport an impressive set of long, rigged horns that are narrow and straight. These antelope are grazers who live in grasslands and follow the rains. Oryx can survive for extended periods of time without drinking, eating only moisture-bearing plants to obtain their water needs. It is interesting to note that Oryx are actually able to store water by raising their body temperature so as to avoid perspiration of precious moisture in the dry season. They move in herds of 5 to 40 animals, often with a large male guarding from the rear and females leading near the front, although some older males have been known to take on a solitary existence. Lions are their main predators although adults can put up respectable resistance to enemies using their horns as deadly spears.
A relative of Europe’s deadly nightshade, called the Sodom apple species, grows inconspicuously on bushes in the woodlands and along the roadside. These interesting plants sprout small purple flowers during season. Although poisonous, the fruit of this plant does have some medicinal value in smaller doses. Gazelle actually eat the fruit for moisture during the dry season.
Less than a mile south of Engelhard Bridge there is a rocky stone outcrop that serves as an ideal habitat for klipspringer – nimble little antelope that can effortlessly leap from rock to rock. Another common animal found in this stony haven is the rock hyrax. These tiny creatures, resembling a small brown rabbit with short ears, are actually the closest living relative to the elephant! Baboons and vervet monkeys are also common in the Matete area.
Your journey through Tarangire will eventually take you south to the remote Silale Swamp. The character of the park changes significantly as you journey south – instead of the woodland that blankets much of the northeastern regions of Tarangire, the landscape is blanketed with a vast sea of grasses and moisture. Crowned cranes prance along the shoreline, and great egrets pose solemnly in the shallows. The expansive views over the swamp to the Sambu Mountains rising up in the distant horizon are breathtaking.
The Silale Swamp acts as a giant sponge during the green season and slowly releases water during the dry season attracting thousands of animals. Resident animals that you will likely encounter include elephant giraffe, rock hyrax, impala, dik-dik, ostrich, waterbuck, warthog and reed buck. Some of the rare antelope species that you may encounter include kudu and Oryx. Primates include baboon, vervet monkey and bush baby while carnivores include lion, leopard, jackal and banded mongoose, which is a small and very social carnivore that lives in large packs and preys mainly on invertebrates. Many species of birds flock in great numbers to the waters of this bird-friendly habitat.
Great rock pythons can be seen living alongside the swamp. These thick, massive reptiles will often curl up high in the branches of the trees that grow alongside the swamp, and will often stay stationary for months at a time – giving visitors the perfect opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat.
Like great battleships drifting through the park, elephants can often be witnessed in large numbers here. Called “tembo” in Swahili, elephants are very sophisticated creatures that live in tightly knit family units. The largest and oldest females serve as the leaders of this family unit, which may consist of several generations of elephants. At maturity (about thirteen years of age) all males will leave their female friends behind – all the sister, mother and grandmother elephants -to live alone or in temporary all-male herds. If you are ever threatened when watching a herd of elephants, it is likely that the aggressor will be an older female protecting her family unit. Most of the time elephants are quite gentle, especially when interacting with other close family members. They are intelligent, loyal, and develop strong bonds with one another.
Fully grown male elephants do not normally come into contact with family units except when a female comes into heat, and thus she is followed by several male admirers and is usually mated by more than one. Some squabbling may break out between the rivals, although it seldom leads to serious injury. When the female comes out of season, her association with the fully grown male elephants ends immediately.
Even the largest most intimidating predators usually leave adult elephants alone. The only exception would be babies; only 80 cm tall at birth, these little tikes would be easy targets for lions if they were not so well protected by their family. At the first indication of danger, elephants will huddle together and place the calves in the center of the adult herd. Depending on the reaction of the threat, the herd will either retreat or the largest matriarch female will put on a show to intimidate the intruder. During the display, the demonstrating elephant will spread her ears wide and shake her head dramatically from side to side. Sometimes, a dummy charge will follow accompanied by loud trumpeting. This tactic usually works as there are not many natural things in this world that are more intimidating than a large, angry, charging elephant!
Elephants do sometimes lay down to sleep, however there is no truth in the myths about “elephant graveyards”.
Areas along the riverbanks where the water has receded are excellent places to observe elephants digging for a drink in the sandy bed where the water table lies just below the surface. Elephants, as well as other animals, seem to prefer the clean, cool water from such digging to hot muddy water that is already pooled at the surface. The digging starts by scraping the loose sand with the forefeet, but once the hole has started to form, the trunk is also incorporated as a digging tool. Although their objective is a cool drink, elephants often seem to make a game of this behavior, putting on quite a show with splashing water and caking themselves with splattered mud. Elephants seem to be the only species intelligent enough, and with enough size, to be capable of such excavations, although other animals have learned to take advantage of them. Amazingly, adult elephants drink between 90-140 liters of water per day.
Candelabra trees, doum palms and dense woodland adorn the fascinating Burungi circuit that loops through the western region of the park. As you travel along the traditional road clockwise from Engelhard Bridge, you’ll drive south and west along the Tarangire River through flat-topped acacias to within 1 mile of the Kuro ranger post before turning your land rover right into woodland as you head towards the park’s western boundary. Before you reach the boundary you’ll turn right again -following the boundary northwards to bring you back to Engelhard Bridge. The complete game loop is approximately 50 miles. During the drive you will see the fascinating candelabra tree with its dark green, succulent branches, among other wonderful types of flora and fauna. The thorn less, succulent branches of the candelabra trees have a milky sap that is poisonous and will burn skin on contact.
Keep your eyes open for Lesser Kudu, a strikingly beautiful and unusual looking little antelope that often hides in the thick bush that blankets this area of Tarangire. They are a very shy antelope, and spend most of the day hidden in dense thicket, venturing out only in late evening and early morning. Adult male Kudu are grey and don a pair of large spiraled horns. The females are more of a brown color and do not have horns. Both males and females have about 13 vertical white stripes around the body, with distinguishing white patches of fur around the neck and throat.
The river valleys on the Burunge Circuit are lined with magnificent borassus palm trees. It is interesting to note that the wood from this tree is termite resistant. Small birds called palm swifts nest in the branches attaching a small bunch of feathers, glued together by saliva, to the mid-rib of a tree branch. From a ground perspective, gazing up at the tree tops from several meters away, these little nests look like a mass of cobwebs. The Borrasus palm also produces a tasty fruit that is edible, and a good palm wine can be tapped from the tree. Interestingly, both lions and elephants like the taste of the edible fruit that grows on the palms.
After turning west into woodland scattered with African ebony trees, it is quite possible to see Africa’s largest antelope the eland. Elands are massive animals, almost cow-like in their build, with big males weighing up to 900 kg and measuring almost 2 meters in height at the prominent hump near the neck. The eland is a very skittish animal in spite of their massive size. Both males and females have spiraled horns that grow straight back from their heads. The female elands are reddish fawn in color, while the older males are more of a grey. Both sexes have differentiating lateral stripes draped around the barrel of their bodies.
Near a kopje, approximately 5 miles short from the park boundary, is a spectacular view of Lake Buruge glittering in the distance. Lake Manyara, the three rolling peaks of Milima Mitatu and the Gregory Rift Wall form a scenic backdrop. Lake Burunge, as well as Lake Manyara, are shallow soda lakes rarely reaching depths of more than 2 meters. The water contains various minerals, mainly calcium and sodium. Since these lakes are formed by natural depressions in the land, they have limited outlets and the minerals can sometimes get very concentrated. Sometimes, during drought years, the lakes will completely evaporate, leaving behind white soda deposits that glitter like snow in the sunshine.
Once in the valley, you will re-enter thick bush and if you are paying attention you might even catch a glimpse of a bushbuck. These pretty antelopes of medium build have a grey or brown coat and light spots on their haunches. Both males and females have bushy white tails that are raised like a flag when they are alarmed and leap for cover. Male bushbucks have a pair of straight, spiral horns.
Kitibong is a beautiful region of the park that surrounds the Kitbong Hill. The landscape is varied, consisting primarily of acacia parkland in the eastern territory and Dalbergia woodland in the western area. Mamire swamps are located in the southern end of Kitibong, and the Gursi Swamp skirts along the southeastern side. Various pools of water created in natural depressions made by wallowing buffalo and elephant can be found here even in the dry season. A lovely view of the Sangaiwe Hills can be seen outside the park to the west.
Magnificent herds of thickly-set buffalo, tossing their heavily bossed horns, teem through the acacia parklands along the eastern side of this region. These herds may be mixed family herds or all male “bachelor” herds. Buffalo are night grazers, and eat the majority of their food after the sun has set. Since buffalo have a difficult time regulating body temperature, during the heat of the day they typically rest or wade in water and mud. As they need to drink water regularly, and due to their habit of wallowing, buffalo like to stay close to a source of water. It is interesting to note that buffalo band together in unified herds with a well established social hierarchy, each animal knowing well its status in relationship to one another. Females form the base group of animals in the herd, while the bulls come and go. The green season tends to correlate with the buffalo breeding season. During the dry season when less breeding occurs, older bulls leave and establish all male bachelor herds.
A turkey-like bird that saunters through the woodlands of Kitibong, as well as other areas of Tarangire, is the Ground hornbill. These heavy birds spend most of their time on the ground, although occasionally they can be seen flying slowly to perch their weighty bodies in a tree, where their white primary feathers tend to give away their presence. Their diet consists mainly of insects and reptiles. At a distance the call of the Ground hornbill sounds much like human voices in conversation. So if you think you hear voices in the middle of Tarangire, it might not be your imagination!
African Hunting dogs are sometimes seen in the park, although sightings are rare and special. These interesting looking dogs have a mottled arrangement of different colored fur that cover their bodies like a tie dye T-shirt. The color palette, arranged together in a calico pattern, includes mustard color and mud colored fur with black and white patches. These dogs run in packs of 6-20 animals; they are efficient, determined hunters but their kills can be quite gruesome to watch. Each pack has a dominant breeding pair that raises up to 16 puppies in one litter. The pups are hidden in dens for almost 12 weeks until they are strong enough to keep up with the adults. In the meantime, the pups are supported by the rest of the adults who regularly bring them food. Sadly, the mortality rate of wild dogs is high as dens are often flooded during the rainy season.
One of the most elegant of all of East Africa’s antelope is the Impala. The impala has a reddish tan coat that seems to shimmer in sunlight. A black stripe borders the white rump patches. Only males have horns, which are tall and svelte. Both males and females have little tufts of wiry black hair just above the heels that conceal scent glands. Both sexes have scent glands concealed in tufts of black wiry hair just above the heels.
Impala are browsers and are seldom found far from cover. They are typically seen in large herds of females and their young, guided from the rear by a territorial male, or they may travel in all-male groups called bachelor herds. These timid deer-like creatures are constantly alert for predators, as they are common targets for lions and leopards. When startled, impala seem to explode like fireworks in all directions, soaring in great bounds and making it difficult for a predator to focus on a single victim.
The endearing Warthog is a commonly seen animal in the bush in Tarangire. These funny little animals resemble pigs. They feed while on their knees and run away with their tails sticking straight up in the air when startled. But don’t let their cute appearance fool you completely – the tusks on a male warthog can rip open a lion. Warthogs are usually seen grazing or running in family groups with 2-4 young. Older male warthogs may become solitary over time.