Tarangire is a combination of the words ‘tara’ and ‘ngire’. Tara is the river that runs through the park and ngire is the Swahili word for warthog, so the name literally means ‘river of warthogs’. You’ll almost certainly see enough of these super fun – but also super shy – animals but what the park is most famous for is its large herds of elephants and its baobab trees to which it ows a lot of its character. Although maybe less known outside of Tanzania, Tarangire is the second most visited national park of Tanzania, after Serengeti National Park (Ngorongoro Conservation Area attracts more visitors but is not a national park) and I’d say it is definitely a park you shouldn’t miss. So how can you visit it? What can you expect? How much does it cost? Where can you sleep? You’ll get the answer to all these questions and more in this practical guide to Tarangire National Park.
Your practical guide to Tarangire National Park - introduction
Tarangire National Park is located in northern Tanzania, just south of Lake Manyara National Park. It covers and area of around 2.600 km², making it the 6th largest national park of Tanzania. While Tarangire is very dry during most of the year, it looks greener than e.g. the Serengeti thanks to lots of elephant grass, acacias and of course the famous baobabs.
Besides the elephants (there’s herds of up to 300 elephants!), you’ll also find lots of buffalos and zebras and decent amounts of giraffes, lions, cheetahs and leopards. During the dry season, a mini-migration takes place, during which around 250.000 animals move around looking for water.
The best time to visit Tarangire National Park
The best time for wildlife viewing is the dry season from June to November, at least if you’re hoping to see the larger animals. During this time, the animals gather around the river which is the only source of water, so they’re easy to spot there.
Have a look at my post about the best time to visit Tanzania for lots of general information about the weather, high- and low-season and an overview of Tanzania per month.
Tarangire is a bit different as a lot of animals leave the park between December and May. Therefore, not only the heavy rain season (March-May) is a pretty bad time to visit the park but December to February are also not the very best months.
During the low-season months however there’s a lot of birds, prices of accommodation are often lower and of course it’s a lot calmer, so if this is what you’re looking for, these months might be ideal for you.
Getting to Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park is located just 2 hours from Arusha and 4 hours from Moshi so you can easily drive there in the morning and have enough time for a safari. From Arusha you could do it as a day trip but from Moshi I wouldn’t recommend it.
If you’re doing a safari of several days, you probably won’t sleep inside the national park but in Mto wa Mbu or Karatu, which are 1 to 1,5 hours from the park towards the entrance of Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti.
The drive from Arusha, Moshi, Karatu/Mto wa Mbu or eg. Kilimanjaro or Arusha airport is included in the price if you book a safari with a tour business, so you don’t have to organize this yourself.
You can also fly into the Tarangire National Park, using one of the airstrips. The most used is Tarangire airstrip but there’s others. It’s best to check with your tour operator to pick the best option. Planes fly in from different starting points such as Arusha, Dar Es Salaam, Ruaha and Zanzibar.
Be aware these planes are small bush planes so standard packages include a limited amount of luggage. Prices are also quite high. You can count 150-200 USD per person from Arusha but over 400 USD from Dar Es Salaam, eg., one-way. Imagine landing in the middle of the park with giraffes next to the airstrip though…
Safaris in Tarangire National Park
Tarangire can both be part of longer and shorter safaris as it’s not too far from Arusha/Moshi. Most people spend just one day in Tarangire and if you’re just there to do a game drive, I’d say that’s enough. But there’s other options, which I’ll tell you more about below.
These are some popular combinations:
- A 2-day safari combining Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro crater. You’ll likely spend 1 night in Mto wa Mbu or Karatu, which are located near the entrance of Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
- A 3-day safari to Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro crater. During this safari you’ll probably also sleep in Mto wa Mbu or Karatu, for 2 nights.
- Any 4 to 6 day safari combining Tarangire with the Serengeti and Ngorongoro and possibly other parks such as Lake Manyara. During safaris like this you’ll spend a part of your nights inside the Serengeti and Ngorongoro and the other part in Mto wa Mbu or Karatu.
There’s of course lots of other packages but these are definitely the ones people choose most often. If you have the time, I’d always recommend spending at least 4 or 5 days on safari in northern Tanzania as there’s more than enough to see to fill that time.
How much does it cost?
Tarangire National Park isn’t amongst the most expensive parks in northern Tanzania but it’ll still cost you 59 USD per 24 hours to visit it. This is the price for adult non-residents, incl. taxes (you’ll find all park fees valid from 1st July 2021 until 30th June 2022 here. Careful, you need to add 18% VAT as written on page 10). Paying this amount gives you access for 24 hours only and your exact entry and exit times are checked at the park gates.
Count around 250-300 USD per day for a safari jeep including gas, the guide’s salary, entrance fees for the car and guide and the cost of sleeping and eating for your guide. This is if you rent the car for several days, renting it for just one day is usually (a lot) more expensive. You can consider this amount whether you rent your own car (more about this below) or use a tour business, as people that rent cars will always ask for more money when renting their cars to independent travelers.
Accommodation & food
For accommodation during your visit to Tarangire there’s 2 options: you either sleep inside the park, or about 1 to 1,5 hours further towards Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro, in Mto wa Mbu or Karatu. In most cases your tour operator will probably suggest the second option, so if you prefer to sleep inside the park, don’t forget to mention it. Whether or not this is possible however also depends on your itinerary. If eg. you pick a 4-day safari with 1 day in Tarangire National Park to start, then 2 days in the Serengeti and a day in Ngorongoro crater at the end, I’d recommend making the drive from Tarangire to the Mto wa Mbu/Karatu area on the evening of day one as it’ll save you 1,5 hours on day 2, when you already have a pretty long drive to the Serengeti ahead of you. The parks close at 6 so you’ll be at your accommodation between 7 and 8 at the latest, leaving enough time for dinner and a good sleep.
Your choice for sleeping inside or outside of the park will also have an impact on the price of your trip. There’s 2 things to consider:
- Inside the park there’s only basic camping or mid-range lodges available but not much (or nothing) in between. I’ve been to the campsite once to check it out and I have to say it didn’t scream ‘cozy’. You’re also likely to be alone there as most visitors simply don’t sleep inside the park.
- If you sleep inside the park in a lodge, you won’t only have to pay the price of the lodge, but also a ‘concession fee’ of 70.80 USD per person per night to the national park. This is if you sleep in the actual park, there’s also ‘Wildlife Management Areas’ right next to it where you pay a bit less. For camping inside the park, the fee is lower but you’ll still have to pay 35.40 USD per person per night for access to the public campsite when there’s several options in Mto wa Mbu for around 20 USD per person per night.
In Mto wa Mbu and Karatu, accommodations can be put in the same categories as inside the parks, but prices in each category are usually lower. Add to that that you won’t have to spend the 70.80 USD of extra concession fees if you decide to stay in a lodge, it definitely is cheaper to sleep in either of these 2 towns.
Camping is the cheapest option with prices around 20 USD per person as I mentioned above. Camp sites here are private and usually in (much) better condition than the ones inside the parks. However it also depends on the chosen campsite and some are really much better than others for more or less the same price. The 20 USD only give you access to the campsite, the toilets and showers, the kitchen area and the dining room but you’ll have to bring all necessary camping and cooking gear yourself. This means not only tents, matrasses, sleeping bags and pillows but also a table and chairs, pots and pans, cutlery, plates, glasses, cooking gas etc. You’ll have to count an extra budget for renting all these items, so camping will cost you around 60 USD per person per night plus food so let’s say around 80-90 USD per person per night food included.
After camping, different tour operators use different names to describe the more expensive / luxurious options. There’s no official categories and every tour operator can pick in which category they consider certain lodges so I recommend you compare the actual accommodations and don’t just look at the name of the category when you’re comparing different offers. Personally I like to divide non-camping accommodations into 4 categories: glamping, standard lodges, mid-range lodges and luxury lodges. As mentioned above, the glamping and standard lodge options aren’t really available inside Tarangire National Park but there’s lots of options in Karatu or Mto wa Mbu.
In these 2 towns, you can count the following prices for each category: 100 USD per person per night in glamping, 150-200 USD per person per night in standard lodges and 300-350 USD per person per night in mid-range lodges. Luxury lodges are of course much higher and prices vary depending on what you want exactly. These prices are for full-board accommodation in double rooms/tents.
Children under 5 years old don’t have to pay entrance fees and children between 5 and 16 (so under 16) pay a lower fee for park fees, camping fees inside the park and concession fees. Accommodations also offer special kids rates but there is no real rules and every accommodation can pick their own maximum ages and reductions. In some you’ll get 50% off for all kids under 16 but others put their limit at 14, 12 or even 10. Sometimes the children’s price depends on how many adults are in the room with the child so you have to check carefully and share the correct information with your lodge or tour operator so that they can give you correct estimations.
Great extra's to add to your Tarangire safari
The first great thing to add to your visit to Tarangire National Park is a walking safari. During this safari you’ll head out on foot to discover a part of the park where it’s safe to do so. You’ll be accompanied by a ranger for extra safety.
If you want to do a walking safari, I’d recommend spending at least 2 days in Tarangire National Park as you won’t have enough time to fully enjoy a game drive if you only have 1 day to do everything. Keep in mind that there’s an extra cost for a walking safari, on top of all other fees. For a short walk of max. 4 hours it’s 23,60 USD per adult for the actual walking safari as well as 23,60 USD per group for a ranger.
If you stay overnight, Tarangire offers night safaris and fly camping options. I’ve never done this myself so I can’t say more about it but it sounds great!
It’s also possible to do a hot air balloon flight over the park. It’s an adventure with a price tag, as flights are around 600 USD per person in a shared hot air balloon, but it’s an indescribable experience. The price includes a flight of about an hour, followed by a luxurious bush breakfast.
Visiting Tarangire National Park independently or on an organized tour?
Want to visit Tarangire National Park too? I have my own tour business in Tanzania and would LOVE to organize it for you!
Have a look at our website and get in touch with all your questions.
Have you been to Tarangire or is it on your bucket list? When would you go? And in which type of accommodation would you like to sleep? I want to hear all about it in the comment section!