Travel Diary: Among Elephants and Baobab Trees in Tarangire National Park

Travel Jael on safari in Tarangire National Park

We spent three amazing days in Tarangire National Park, the land of giants: baobab trees and elephants. Tarangire is believed to have the highest concentration of elephants in the whole world, making it a true paradise for elephant lovers. And if you’re not a fan of elephants when entering this park, you will be when leaving – these majestic creatures will steal your heart! Here’s a blog post about our safari in Tarangire National Park.

Monkey Business by the Entrance

Entrance to Tarangire National Park
When entering Tarangire National Park there’s a lot of monkeys lurking around. Can you spot the one posing on the information board with the national park rules?

We got an early start from Arusha towards Tarangire National Park, a few hours from Arusha. It had been dark the night before when we arrived and this was the first look at Tanzania I got, so even the car drive towards the park was super exciting. We drove past corn fields, sun flower fields, rice fields, saw colourfully dressed people heading to church (Christmas day), women balancing water on their heads and Maasai people with their cattle.

By the entrance gate we saw our first safari animal: monkeys! Black faced vervet monkeys patrol the entrance gate area, looking for vehicles that have left their windows open. And yes, they will steal your lunch if you leave the window open.

My First Safari Ever Begins

Baobab trees in Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park is home to many baobab trees, like the one in the distance. Baobab trees can grow up to 30 meters high and their trunks can become up to 11 meters thick.

I’d woken up with a cold and was feeling a quite ill. However I quickly forgot about it when we drove in through Tarangire’s gates. The feeling was just incredible! In just barely half an hour we’d already spotted more or less the whole Lion King cast – the feeling was just so surreal! Impalas, mongooses, hornbills, warthogs, baboons – there were animals all around us. We even got to see four lions that had climbed up into an acacia tree for a lazy snooze.

We had a picnic lunch in the car whilst admiring the landscapes. Tarangire means warthog river and as the name implies, there’s a river flowing through the park (and yes, plenty of warthogs as well). The landscape is rolling, with grass-covered hills and valleys with the river flowing through. Looking almost like giant mushrooms, enormous baobab trees sprout up here and there. The baobab trees can live for thousands of years, providing an important source of water for animals during dry periods.

African Elephants on the Road

Seeing elephants on safari in Tarangire National Park
The African elephant can grow up to 4 meters in height. These individuals are smaller, but still impressive. Look how tiny that safari jeep looks compared to them!
Seeing elephants on safari in Tarangire National Park
See the little baby elephant behind the female elephant? So tiny!

Suddenly, as the twisting dirt road rounded a corner we finally spotted them: elephants! Before this I’d never thought about myself as an elephant person. I wanted to see them, sure, but it wasn’t the animal I was most excited about. However, this changed completely from the moment I laid eyes upon my first elephants in the wild. I was mesmerised and couldn’t get enough of them.

As if completely oblivious to the fact that we were so close to them, the herd of elephants – around twenty of them – just continued with their daily business, crossing the road right in front of us. One huge female passed by the side of the jeep so close her eyelashes almost brushed my arm. She just walked by, gently, slowly, allowing me to appreciate her beauty up close. She continued onwards and stopped to graze. The elephants seem to eternally be eating and that’s no wonder considering the fact that they need to eat up to 150 kilos every day!

It was fascinating watching the relationships between the herd members and also how the elephants use their trunk – what an amazing tool!

Crazy About Big Cats

Later on we spotted a lioness walking along the road and what a commotion that caused! We were lucky to get to appreciate the elephants all by ourselves, but the lion – there must have been at least twenty jeeps full of tourists snapping pics from every possible angle. This particular animal encounter felt more like a zoo than a wildlife experience.

I was starting to feel really ill and so we headed towards our camp. On the way there we saw a male warthog chasing two baby warthogs and a mama warthog that seemed desperate to try to protect her babies. What was going on there?

Seeing a giraffe on safari in Tarangire National Park
The giraffe, the tallest terrestrial mammal on our planet and the national animal of Tanzania.

Last but not least, as if the day hadn’t been amazing enough we spotted a herd of giraffes. The highlight was seeing a baby giraffe bend down for a drink, so cute and awkward!

Sleeping in a Tent With Leopards and Lions Outside

Sleeping in a tent on safari in Tarangire National Park
Maweninga Camp is a camp with luxury tents. Our tent even had a nice little terrace from which we could try and spot giraffes and other animals.

Arriving at Maweninga Camp, our home for the next two nights was just breathtaking. The view was amazing and the camp and tent even more so.

I’d never been on a safari previously and never slept in a tent in an area where lions, leopards and hyenas roam free. We got strict orders to never walk alone after sunset as leopards in particular can be seen around the area.

You’d think this would have made it hard to sleep, but I slept like a baby! I’m usually a bad sleeper so it was a bit surprising to me. Perhaps it was the fresh air (we left the tent flaps open and slept with just a mosquito net covering one side of the tent) or the calming nighttime sounds of the surrounding nature that helped induce sleep.

The next morning I was feeling so ill that I had to stay in. I spent the day resting in the tent, listening to the sounds of the small hyraxes hopping around outside the tent.

And yes, if you snooze you loose – on safari as well. While I was busy battling the flu of the century the rest of my family had numerous unforgettable safari sightings like seeing a leopard, a leopard turtle and a cheetah up close (it even rolled around on the ground for them, definitely sucks I missed that!).

Fortunately we spotted some giraffes walking around in the valley below by the camp, so I didn’t feel too left out.

What a feeling, to be truly in the middle of all this wildlife!

More Elephants and Giraffes

Seeing elephants and baobab trees on safari in Tarangire National Park
Only baobab trees can dwarf elephants. The male elephant in this picture is enormous, closer to four meters tall. Yet next to the baobab tree, he looks petite.

The next morning we left Maweninga Camp behind and drove towards the park gates. As we left really early there was still some mist and with the morning sun it looked so beautiful. The moment was made ever so slightly less magical thanks to those pesky tsetse flies. They really seem to bite through anything and man it hurts!

We hadn’t been on the road for a long time when suddenly we spotted a group of giraffes. I love their cute faces; they just look like the kindest animals on the planet.

Cute giraffe on safari in Tarangire National Park

Just when I was finding myself really missing elephants a herd of 30-50 appeared. They were crossing the road right in front of us, surrounding us on all sides. There were big ones, small ones, and teenagers. Eating, scratching each other’s backs with their trunks, one couple was trying to mate right in front of our jeep, others were throwing grass on top of their backs to protect themselves from insects. I could have watched them forever!

Tarangire really surpassed my expectations and made me fall head over heels in love with African elephants.


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