Located in the northeastern region of Tarangire and the Engelhard Bridge (also known as Matete Bridge) that crosses the Tarangire river, Matete is an exquisite land of tall elephant grass and open acacia woodlands. The occasional baobab tree is also encountered here, towering over the rest of the flora and fauna of the landscape.
Matete actually gets its name from the high elephant grass and spiky reeds that grow on the river banks on the western side of the region. It is also interesting to note that Engelhard Bridge was named after a patron whose family helped preserve Tarangire National Park.
As mentioned above, the Matete region is distinguished by its open acacia woodlands scattered with baobab trees, but most prominent is the river flowing along the western side of Matete that entices many animals to drink from its banks during the dry season. The water is alkaline, but the animals seem to have developed a tolerance for the amount of salinity it contains. The airstrip in this area is a great place to capture pictures of elephants silhouetted against the sunset. There is a mountain that stands outside the park called Lolkisale that can also be seen from this area.
Many different types of animals are partial to the habitat provided by Matete's open acacia woodland and grasslands. The flat-topped canopies of acacia tortillas trees make the ideal nesting sight for various types of birds, especially since it keeps their precious eggs away from the reach of predators. Acacia tortilis trees are easily recognizable by their knarled branches, long thorns, and flat "umbrella-like" canopy of leaves.
The exquisite antelope called the oryx also inhabits the Matete area, although the numbers of these antelope have now dwindled so low that they are rarely seen. They are very beautiful animals, and quite large in size. Their coat is grey with black stripes along the spine, white undercoat, black stripes where the face attaches to the neck, and black and white facial markings. Both male and female oryx sport an impressive set of long, rigged horns that are narrow and straight. These antelope are grazers who live in grasslands and follow the rains. Oryx can survive for extended periods of time without drinking, eating only moisture-bearing plants to obtain their water needs. It is interesting to note that oryx are actually able to store water by raising their body temperature so as to avoid perspiration of precious moisture in the dry season. They move in herds of 5 to 40 animals, often with a large male guarding from the rear and females leading near the front, although some older males have been known to take on a solitary existence. Lions are their main predator although adults can put up respectable resistance to enemies using their horns as deadly spears.
A relative of Europe's deadly nightshade, called the Sodom apple species, grows inconspicuously on bushes in the woodlands and along the roadside. These interesting plants sprout small purple flowers during season. Although poisonous, the fruit of this plant does have some medicinal value in smaller doses. Gazelle actually eat the fruit for moisture during the dry season.
Less than a mile south of Engelhard Bridge there is a rocky stone outcrop that serves as an ideal habitat for klipspringer - nimble little antelope that can effortlessly leap from rock to rock. Another common animal found in this stony haven is the rock hyrax. These tiny creatures, resembling a small brown rabbit with short ears, are actually the closest living relative to the elephant! Baboons and vervet monkeys are also common in the Matete area.