Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park is second only to Ngorongoro Conservation area in terms of concentrations of wildlife. The Park lies to the south of the large open grasslands of southern Maasailand and is named after the Tarangire River, which provides permanent water for wildlife in the Park. It is an easy drive by good tarmac road from Arusha, passing open plains and great views of Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru along the way. During the dry season 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 shrivelled to a shadow of its wet season self. But it is choked with wildlife. Thirsty nomads have wandered hundreds of parched kilometres knowing that here, always, there is water.
The most productive game driving is often along the banks of the river, where most of the mammals come down for their daily drink. Tarangire’s other draw is that although you are restricted to vehicles in the Park itself, its ecosystems extend over 10 times the size of the park boundary into a buffer zone. Here it is possible to walk and experience the very particular thrill of night game drives, when a whole new gambit of animal life (most with big eyes) is revealed. 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 shrinking 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 observed.