Tarangire National Park lies 118 km southwest of Arusha town and covers an area of 2,850 square kilometers. The name of the park originates from the Tarangire river that crosses through the park, being the only source of water for wild animals during dry seasons.
The Park is the sixth largest national park in Tanzania after Ruaha, Serengeti, Mikumi, Katavi and Mkomazi. The landscape is composed of scattered baobab trees alternating with open acacia woodlands, open bush, plains, swamps, rivers and palm trees.
The park is famous for its huge number of elephants, baobab trees and its tree climbing pythons. Visitors to the park can expect to see any number of resident zebra and wildebeest in addition to the less common animals. Other common animals include waterbuck, giraffe, and olive baboons.
Home to more than 550 species, the park is a haven for bird enthusiasts who can expect so see dozens of species even in the dry season. The swamps are the focus of the largest selection of breeding birds anywhere in the world. Yellow-collared Lovebirds are a common bird sighting in the trees along the Tarangire River. The park is also famous for the termite mounds that dot the landscape. Those that have been abandoned are often seen to be home to dwarf mongoose.
Tarangire National Park can be reached via paved road from Arusha in under four hours. Lake Manyara National Park is only a 70 kilometers (43 mile) drive from Tarangire. One can visit the park all year round but the month of June to September are the driest months and wildlife population decreases.
Besides game viewing other activities include 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.
The Serengeti National Park is widely regarded as the best wildlife reserve in Africa due to its density of predators and prey. The park covers 14,763 km2 (5,700 sq mi) of grassland plains and savanna as well as riverine forest and woodlands. The park lies in the north of the country, bordered to the north by the national Tanzania and Kenyan border, where it is continuous with the Masai Mara National Reserve.
The park is usually described in three regions Serengeti plains, Western corridor and Northern Serengeti. Serengeti plains are characterized by the endless, almost treeless grasslands. This is where the wildebeest breed, as they remain in the plains from December to May.
Other ungulates also occur in huge numbers during the wet season. Kopjes are granite florations which are very common in the region, and they are great observation posts for predators, as well as a refuge for hyrax and pythons. The Western corridor the “black cotton” soil covers the swampy savannah of this region.
Grumeti river is home to enormous Nile crocodiles, colobus monkey, and the martial eagle. The migration passes through from May to July. The Northern Serengeti landscape is dominated by open woodlands and hills, ranging from Seronera in the South, to the Mara river in the limit with Kenya. Apart from the migratory wildebeest and zebra (which occur from July to August, and in November), the bushy savannah is the best place to find elephant, giraffe and dik dik.
Human habitation is forbidden in the National Park with the exception of staff for TANAPA, researchers, Frankfurt Zoological Society staff, and staff of the various lodges and hotels. The main settlement is Seronera which houses the majority of research staff and the park’s main headquarters, including its primary airstrip.
As well as the migration of ungulates, the park is well known for its healthy stock of other resident wildlife, particularly the “Big Five”. The park also supports many further species, including cheetah, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle, topi, eland, waterbuck, hyena, baboon, impala, African wild dog and giraffe.
The park also boasts about 500 bird species, including ostrich, secretary bird, Kori bustard, crowned crane, marabou stork, martial eagle, lovebirds and many species of vultures.
The Ngorongoro conservation area was established in the year 1959 and later become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The crater is one of the biggest caldera in the world and has been described as one of the most spectacular game hunts in Africa. The crater has a diameter of 14.5km and a depth of 2000ft – 2500ft. The crater covers an area of 264 km2.
The crater highlands on the side facing the easterly trade winds receives 800-1200 mm of rain a year and is covered largely in montane forest, while the less-steep west wall receives only 400-600 mm; this side is grassland and bush land dotted with Euphorbia trees. The crater floor is mostly open grassland with two small wooded areas dominated by Acacia xanthophloea. The major source of water for the park is Ngoitokitok Spring, Munge Stream and Lerai Stream.
The best vantage point is the flat-topped Engitati Hill in the north-eastern corner of the park. Lake Magadi, a large but shallow alkaline lake in the south-western corner, is the main feature of the crater. A large number of flamingos, hippos and other water birds can usually been seen here. The Lerai Forest a fever tree forest located in the south is a good place in the park to see animals such as elephants, waterbuck and flitting sunbirds. Swamps, thorn scrub and grassland fill the rest of the park and provide the bulk of wildlife viewing.
The park is one of the most densely crowded wildlife areas in the world and is home to an estimated 30,000 animals. There are no giraffe, topi or impala in the park – they probably find it to difficult to negotiate the crater rim cliffs and there is also insufficient grazing for large herds of antelope, inside the park. However the park teems with wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, aggressive pack hunting hyenas and resident lion prides. Supported by a year round supply of water and fodder, the park supports a vast variety of animals, which include impressive herds of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, eland, warthog, hippo, giant elephants and a small population of black rhino. Another big draw to this picturesque park is it dense population of predators, which include lions, hyenas, jackals, cheetahs and the ever elusive leopard, which sometimes requires a trained eye to spot.
The Ngorongoro Crater is only open from 06h00 to 16h00 and only 6 hour safari permits are issued which allows for only a single 6 hour morning game drive or 6 hour afternoon game drive to the park. There are two picnic and toilet spots – the one in the Lerai Forest and at the other at the Ngoitokitok Springs located in the south-eastern section of the park.