Tanzania Safari – Part 2: Tarangire National Park

Tarangire National Park Sunrise
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One of the best places to see lots of animals is Tarangire National Park. This park is beyond amazing as it is over 2800km2 with herds of animals roaming free. Tarangire is a must starting point for your Tanzania safari.

Tarangire National Park

Tanzania landscape

Tarangire National Park viewYou cannot fathom how truly massive this park is. Everywhere you look, it goes on for miles. The Tarangire National Park is located between the meadows of Masai Steppe to the southeast and the lakes of the Great Rift Valley to the north and west. The Maasai Steppe is a semi-arid grassland with predominantly acacia woodlands in the low-lying areas and Miombo woodlands in the hills rising in the southwest towards Kondo District. The national park provides a core habitat for elephants, lions wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, buffalos, oryxes and a host of other species. The potential to see wild animals differ depending on the season you visit Tarangire National Park. The great migration happens from November to May which might leave a lesser amount of animals in the park. Although I visited at the end of November and there were an amazing amount of animals still present.

I’m sitting on my deck listening to the birds sing and am feeling very blessed to be able to experience this. I can see elephants from my deck in the landscape. They look like little black dots around the trees. Even with a storm coming in one afternoon, it was fascinating to watch the fog and rain move in over the grassland. It looked like it swallowed up the whole park one area at a time. Storm coming through Tarangire National Park

Photographing Animals on a Safari

Leopard Jumping From Tree

Photographers shooting animalsAnimals are difficult to photograph in the wild. You need to have patience, quiet, and a bit of luck. I took three camera lenses with me, a wide angle lens (Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM),  long zooms (Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C), and a regular lens ( Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS). I probably could have gotten away with only bringing the two lenses since I hardly used my regular lens to shoot anything. My instructor brought her Macro lens and was able to capture some a Slender Chameleon that happened to go by us at one of our lunch stops. Here is a simple list for camera gear to bring to a Tanzania Safari at Tarangire National Park:

  • Camera – I would recommend bringing a DSLR over a smaller mirrorless camera. When zooming into the animals upon editing the smaller cameras do not usually provide enough pixels needed to make stock photos after zooming/cropping.
  • Camera Manual
  • Memory Cards
  • Card Reader
  • 1-2 lenses (or an extender or teleconverter)
  • Surge protector
  • Converter Plug (Must bring! A couple of people had issues with their chargers not charging because of the converter)
  • Laptop and Laptop Charger to edit photos each night or you can save this to do at home
  • Spare Camera Batteries
  • Battery Charger
  • Neoprene Camera Case – I have this whole set now and use it to store my camera in my backpack when I travel. See below for Amazon links.
  • Protector for Lenses – This is a great protective cover for a 600mm lens. See below for Amazon link.

 

When using a long lens (Sigma 150-600mm), you need to set the lens on a bean bag to reduce camera motion blur. If you don’t, you might get movement from the jeep with people moving around. Sorry, John! Other photography safari tips: Look for changes in color and notice behavior changes in the animals. When lions were about all the animals would stop moving. They would look frozen in the direction of what they saw. This was always a sign that there was a predator nearby. The animals wouldn’t start moving until the danger passed. The other thing that is fascinating to see is that the herds when moving together are impressive, whether it is the single file migration of the zebras or the pack of buffalos running all together you have to see it! The big highlights so far have been capturing the leopard jumping off the tree. We went back three times and each time we saw the leopard again in that same tree. We thought there must be a kill nearby that he is protecting. Trust your guides to catch these animals for you. I would have never noticed the leopard tail hanging down among all the tree branches. Thank you TopGuides Safaris, You guys were awesome!

Photographing Birds

Capturing animals in the wild, especially birds is challenging. It is best to set your camera to Shutter Priority. This will give you the best chance to not have blurry animals. Although I can’t promise that. I have a lot of blurry animals. Some of those suckers run really, really fast. Not to mention the flying ones. For starters, set your Shutter Priority to 1/1000 sec. You can change the speed up or down as you check how your photos are coming out. Some birds in flight might need up to 1/2000 sec. Plus, make sure you check your ISO periodically to make sure it doesn’t go too high and add noise to the photos. Also, a great recommendation that we were given is to check every five photos to see if your exposure is still accurate. I can’t tell you how many of us forgot to do that and regret looking at tons of photos washed out. More tips: Leave space in front of the animal/face. Make sure you have the entire animal/face in the frame. I, unfortunately, need to practice this one. The other thing I need to practice is moving my focal point. I tended to keep this in the middle of the frame. It is good to set your focus to one point and move it with your camera’s controller. Just remember allowing the camera to choose the focus will take too long and you might miss the shot. All total we captured and saw 140 species of birds during our stay in Tanzania.

Giraffes

Giraffes don’t move around too much, so you have to try and focus on them through leaves and trees. This is where selective focus comes in handy. Try to get different shots of them to change it up closeups beside far away photos. I especially love the ones where they have their tongues sticking out.

Antelope

These guys are just cute to photograph. Most of the time they stop and stare right into the camera for you. If you are curious about what type of antelopes these are, you can click on the individual photos. Let me know which one of these guys are your favorite?

Zebras

Zebras are my favorite animals to photograph. I love the black and white patterns on their coats and how unique they are to each one. Do you know what color a zebra is Black or White? The truth is that zebras are actually black animals with white stripes. Some of the zebra photos I have taken crack me up.  The first one I can imagine the zebra saying to himself “They can’t see me!” Plus, I love the simplicity of the mother and child zebra. I even captured a very obvious pregnant one. But, my ultimate favorite photos are the zebra butt photos. Gotta love them!

Elephants

Tarangire National Park is also called “Land of Elephants” This is the largest concentration of elephants that I saw among the three national parks. We followed a few elephant families around Tarangire National Park over the couple days we were visiting. And I learned some interesting things about elephants that I did not know. First, did you know that the baby elephants actually eat the mother’s feces?  The baby elephants eat the feces of their mothers or other animals in the herd, to obtain the bacteria required to properly digest vegetation found in their ecosystems. Plus, elephants are very quiet animals when they are walking. You can’t even hear their feet shuffling. It is eerily quiet to have a herd walk right by you and don’t hear a thing. One of my favorite times was watching a baby elephant play and splash in the water. These little guys have so much energy! And of course, I had to get the obligatory butt shot!

Buffalo

These herds were plentiful in Tarangire National Park. We were fortunate to come across the herd at the watering hole. They moved out when the elephant family came by, but I was able to capture a couple of shots of them drinking water and at least I don’t forget…the butt shot. I’m thinking of doing a children’s book of “Can you tell the African animal by their butt?” I still need to work on the name a bit. What do you think?

Lion

This was a fascinating find. The lion was laying down in the grass after eating half of a wildebeest. Imagine after eating Thanksgiving dinner with everybody sitting on the couch watching football stuffed and not moving. This was him! His dinner was hidden in a bush a bit away from him, but our talented safari guides were able to locate it.

African Trees

I love photographing trees and the ones in the Tarangire National Park were gorgeous and had so much character. These are trees I would like to paint some day. The exciting thing is to don’t dismiss these trees. You will see birds perched on top of it or even leopards hiding on a branch. Baobab tree with Tarangire landscapeSun shining through tree in Tarangire

Lemala Mpingo Camp

Chicken ballotine

Chicken ballotine with thyme and sundried tomatoes, with sweet potato and balsamic dressing

My view from my tent at Mpingo Ridge Camp is so luxurious. The bed is larger than a king. I have an indoor and outdoor shower and a tub on the patio, which I did enjoy immensely. The views are beyond words. The camp itself is run by the nicest people, Boz & Margie. They pull out all the stops to make this experience the best you ever had. They have Maasai guides to carry your luggage to your tent and to walk you to the main building at night and in the morning. Which you do need as I even heard a leopard nearby one night and it was still around the next morning. The food is top notch, and if you don’t want to go to dinner, they’ll call to check on you to see if you are okay or want anything delivered to your tent. I did enjoy all the services here, including a 30-minute massage. It was so relaxing. Today is my last day here since we are transferring to the next local. What a sunrise!Tarangire National Park Sunrise

Maasai Children

The Maasai children are interesting to interact with. They have a strong work ethic as they are the ones moving their animals around. Some of the kids were smaller than the goats and cattle they were shepherding. We also saw young boys in face paint and all in black together. These boys are transitioning to manhood. We were able to take their photo by offering them some cash.  The younger children love to come by the jeeps as people are leaving the park. Our photographer planned and she bought paper and pencils for them. Although we did not expect the mad rush when we did start handing them out to the kids. It was nice to give them something that they could use in their schools.

Going on a Photography Safari

I went on numerous game drives in Tarangire National Park and was incredibly lucky to see and capture so many animals with my camera. I was astounded by the sheer size of the elephants, the playfulness of the baby elephants, the absolute single file migration of the zebras, how fast the ostrich, antelope, Dik-Dik, and warthogs run and how much one lion can eat in one sitting. This is one experience I would love to do again and again. Tarangire National Park is an excellent location to start your Tanzania Safari. Oh and if you see any photos on these posts that you would like to have, send me a comment below and I’ll add them to my photography site. Thanks for reading and enjoying my photos!

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