Tarangire National Park at the peak of the dry season presents day after day of cloudless skies. 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 still rich with wildlife. Thirsty nomads have wandered hundreds of parched miles knowing that here, always, there is water.
Herds of up to 300 elephants scratch the dry river bed for underground streams, while migratory wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, gazelle, hartebeest and eland crowd the lagoons. It’s the greatest concentration of wildlife outside the Serengeti ecosystem – a smorgasbord for predators – and the one place in Tanzania where dry-country antelope such as the stately fringe-eared oryx and peculiar long-necked gerenuk are regularly seen on safari.
During the rainy season, the seasonal wildlife visitors scatter over a 12,500 sq miles range until they exhaust the green plains and the river calls once more. The swamps, tinged green year round, are the focus for over 550 bird varieties, the most breeding species in one habitat anywhere in the world. On drier ground the Kori bustard, the heaviest flying bird; the stocking-thighed ostrich, the world’s largest bird; and small parties of ground hornbills blustering like turkeys.
More ardent bird-lovers might keep an eye open for screeching flocks of the dazzlingly colorful yellow-collared lovebird, and the somewhat drabber rufous-tailed weaver and ashy starling – all endemic to the dry savannah of north-central Tanzania.
Disused termite mounds are often frequented by colonies of the endearing dwarf mongoose, and pairs of red-and-yellow barbet, which draw attention to themselves by their loud, clockwork-like duetting. Tarangire’s pythons are known to climb trees, as do its lions and leopards, lounging in the branches where the fruit of the sausage tree disguises the twitch of a tail. Tarangire is an incredible Tanzania safari destination and an unbeatable location to see elephants en mass.
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