The afternoon sky burns vivid blue, without a cloud in sight. The sun's fierce rays soak the moisture from the dusty red earth and sear the grassy plains to a tawny ghost of its former verdant self. It is in this time of year, the dry season (July to October), when arangire National Park is teeming with wildlife - drawn to its flowing perennial water supply. A menagerie of different shapes and sizes of animals flock here from miles around, lured to the enticing waters of the Tarangire River and seasonal swampland.
Long columns of wildebeest, zebra, impala, and gazelle file in great numbers to the receding banks of the river. Masses of giraffe, buffalo and hartebeest crowd the receding lagoons and waterholes. Even though these animals have found water, a vital source of life, this sustenance comes not without its own dangers. Predators like lions and leopards are drawn like a magnet to this smorgasbord of concentrated prey. Birds flock to these waters as well, and many varied species can be photographed and studied here.
It is interesting to note that the wildlife in Tarangire migrates in a cyclic patter over a year. The soil in the park is deficient in phosphorus, forcing the wildlife to leave their protected haven and cross the park boundaries to search for mineral-rich forage. Most of this land belongs to the pastoral Maasai communities, who have historically coexisted with the migrating herds since they rely primarily on their cattle for sustenance and do not traditionally hunt wild animals. However, a growing human population and a shift toward agriculture has placed an ever increasing strain on these supporting areas.
Dry season or green season, the park is most famous for its dense elephant population. Huge numbers of elephants, of all shapes and sizes, can be seen resting in the shade or digging in the soil for underground streams. These nimble giants trump to one another across the river and dust themselves red with Taragire's brick colored earth.
The yellow-barked Fever Tree grows in groves along the clay shores of the river. Statuesque and almost ghost-like in appearance, it thrives in the poorly drained clay soil where many other species of tree fail to grow, thus being the most dominant type of tree along the river banks. Called the "Fever Tree" by early travelers and explorers, it was mistakenly thought to cause malaria since many people contracted the disease when camping in its locality. However, the relationship was purely coincidental, as the malaria-carrying mosquito simply favors the same moist, riverside conditions as the tree!
Bahor reedbuck may also be seen strolling in the tall elephant grass and reeds near the river. The males of this species have short, forward curving horns. Reedbucks will emit a shrill whistle when startled and bound away with a distinctive "rocking horse" gait. These antelope are often confused with impala, but can be distinguished by its uniform sandy-red coat and bushy tail with a white "flag".