No other country in East Africa protected its wilderness or its wildlife better than Tanzania, and Tarangire may be the best example. This very wild and massive wilderness had been a hunting preserve for several decades, before wildlife authorities realized the special importance of the park for elephant. It was changed to a protected reserve, even thoughTanzania remains one of the last big game hunting areas in the world.
Lacking the large herbivore herds of other East African parks, however, many visitors skip Tarangire. But one important reason Tarangire lacks these large herds is because the Tanzanians expended so much time and effort preserving the forests, including the baobab forests. Preservation of the trees meant ardent controlling of dry season fires, and subsequently, less dynamic regeneration of rainy season grasses. The unobstructed plains of new grass is what attracts and builds the great wildebeest herds in the Serengeti and the Mara, but unguarded burning became a tourist management technique in places like Kenya’s Mara, where forests were then sacrificed. As a result, almost a third of the arboreal creatures still thriving in Tanzania have been lost in Kenya. And kudu, bushbuck and a number of duikers are nearly extinct in Kenyan parks. They thrive in Tarangire. Tarangire is a wonderfully healthy biosphere, its sustained forests a triumph of studied conservation efforts. It can sometimes be a challenge for game viewing to search for wildlife through a bevy of trees, but it’s precisely why so much wildlife survives here.
Entering Tarangire is impossible for anyone who has read the “Little Prince” without immediately thinking of it. There are more grand baobab trees here than anywhere in Africa. The Maasai legend which claims a baobab is an upside down tree provides you with enough information to become completely disoriented, as you seem to be walking upside down just under the top of the earth.<p> Tarangire’s feature is the elephant. Elephant will be seen in practically every big game wilderness in East Africa, but the elephant in Tarangire are special. Half their lives are spent in a remote, unpopulated area south of the park known as the Maasai steppe. With less human interaction, these are very wild elephant. With the progress of the dry season, they move into Tarangire to dig for water in the sand rivers that distinguish this park and which in many ways give it the character of many southern African parks. This is the only time of the year that multiple elephant families will come together, and there are times that 200 – 300 elephant can be seen together. There is no other place in Africa where this spectacle can be viewed as easily as in Tarangire.
In many ways Tarangire is more like a southern than East African wilderness, distinguished by its great sand rivers. It’s a heavily wooded park with no savanna. There are great swamps and heavily forested canyons dug by ancient rivers. The environment is perfect for big game like elephant, but there is much more including giraffe and impala, and there are literally thousands of baboon. It is the perfect terrain for leopard as well, which are regularly encountered.