Tarangire River Camp part of the Mbali Mbali group of hotels was our first base in Tanzania. We arrived at lunchtime after an overnight flight and a 5am landing into Kilimangaro, so to say we were exhausted is understating it slightly. We were collected from the airport by Martin from Ranger Safaris and off we went.
The drive from Arusha/Kilimangaro Airport to Tarangire River Camp takes around 3 hours. The road from the main road up to Tarangire River Camp was in the usual way bumpy and uncomfortable but on it we saw elephants, giraffes, warthogs and gazelle. All be before we had even arrived at the camp.
The welcome from the team at Tarangire River Camp was warm and enthusiastic. Cold towels and cold drinks to refresh us followed by a short briefing and then we were taken to our family tent.
All the tents at Tarangire River Camp sit on stilts with large balcony areas for you to sit outside in the morning or evening. Some of the tents overlook the gorge, albeit our family tent did not.
The family tent at Tarangire River Camp comfortably fit the very large super king sized bed and three single full sized beds. It was spotless and had well fitted mosquito nets with no holes. There was a huge bathroom with a huge shower that could have comfortably fit the five of us in at once, and did in fact fit the three kids. Double sinks completed the bathroom and there was nice shower gels and shampoos available. As is often the case there was no hairdryer but that doesn’t worry me at all on a safari holiday like this.
After settling into our room we made our way back to the large restaurant area for a swim before lunch.
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The pool was far too cold for me to venture in, but the kids are not to be deterred by something like that, so they donned their swim suits and jumped in anyway. Isobel had located a masai stick on the way in and that joined them in the pool too.
I sat by the side of the pool, using some very impressive wifi, reading my book and looking out at the view across the gorge.
There were two options for lunch and dinner each evening and we always found something the kids would like (or tolerate in my notoriously fussy eldest’s daughters case anyway). We adults thought the food was excellent and really enjoyed every meal we had. Accommodation at Tarangire River Camp is based on a full board basis with drinks included too. We didn’t investigate the full bar options but we drank gin and tonics and beers with most meals. The kids had plenty of fruit juice options and Fanta Orange, Sprite and Coca Cola too.
We took our first game drive after lunch into Tarangire National Park. We set off about 2pm and returned by 5.30pm. We chose to do a shorter drive in the afternoon as we had been on the go for around 36 hours.
The roads in Tarangire National Park itself are actually not too bad. Noisy and gravelly yes but in generally good condition and not too bumpy at all.
During our time in the park we saw an enormous family of elephants, around 40 I’d say which literally surrounded the car. It was incredible to see them so close up and see so many babies too. When we had stayed at Mvuu camp in Malawi last year we were lucky enough to see a similar number of elephants but this time they were a lot closer and we all managed to get some fantastic photos! I’ve included a link to my 8 year olds photos too as one of the best things you can do on a safari with kids is give them their own camera to use with a great zoom. It helps keep them engaged but also helps them to see things that are a little further away as binoculars are really hard for little ones to use.
Returning to the camp for pre-dinner drinks and food felt very welcoming and like coming home already. There was only two other guests staying at Tarangire River Camp that evening as May is still low season. We ate dinner and all ended up in bed practically at the same time, after a masai had walked us home to our tent. You can’t walk around after dark at Tarangire River Camp without being accompanied as there are no gates to the camp and animals can come and go as they please. I wondered how close animals would really come to a camp, but was to find out just how close at Serengeti Pioneer Camp later in the week.
The next morning we chose not to leave too early for our full day game drive. One of the best things about having our own driver and guide was being able to our choose our own start and finish times when we could. This meant we didn’t do any very early mornings which was great as the kids weren’t getting to bed before 9pm after an evening dinner.
Breakfast at Tarangire River Camp was a set out buffet style with pastries, fruit platters, toast, juices and lots of jams and preserves. There was also the option to order a hot breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, beans and tomato. We certainly were not going to go hungry.
You can check out our video of the full Tanzania Family Holiday here!
We left Tarangire River Camp around 8.30am with a picnic packed and decided to stay out as long as we could. We very quickly found a very large journey of giraffes, probably around 50 or 60 they were literally as far as the eye could see. The girls couldn’t quite believe how many they had seen as they remembered at Akagera Game Park in Rwanda a few years ago, spending ages trying to see 3 giraffes a long way away in the distance.
Tarangire revealed more elephants to us, a lot more, and lot of gazelles, dik diks, warthogs and a huge variety of birds too. Martin told us that lions had been seen down towards the swamp at the south of Tarangire National Park so we drove for quite a long time down to the bottom of the park only to find that the latest news was that they had moved on. Such is the way on a safari when the animals can move freely and quickly.
We stopped for lunch at that point at a picnic spot and enjoyed a lunch of beef kebabs, rolls, fruit and cake that had been packed for us by Tarangire River Camp. I had taken a huge bag of snacks with me for the kids too as I wasn’t sure if they would like what had been packed and so they had crisps and rice cakes too.
The toilets at the picnic stop in Tarangire National Park was kind of non existent. I held the kids over a ‘space’ in the floor and we held our breath!
After our picnic stop we asked Martin to head back towards Tarangire River Camp. We were literally driving down the road next to the swap and stumbled across two lionesses by the side of the road. One of them had clearly just been in a fight and was red and bloody and they both seemed to be watching out for something else. We watched them for an hour or so and then realised that they were looking back towards a larger pride of lions. It seemed like the lioness that had been hurt had been expelled from the pride as she wandered off and the other lioness went back to the group. Whilst these lions were a little further away from the road we still got some great views of them all. What a find.
When we arrived back at Tarangire River Camp the kids hit the pool again whilst we reclined with a beer. Dinner was again lovely and this time we were treated to after dinner dancing from the staff and security team. They got us all involved with large sticks, drums and masai throws. It was good fun and made our evening.
Breakfast the next morning was out in the sun with a view of the Gorge. When so much effort is gone to just for your family you know you are somewhere very special. The chef had even made a brad shaped like a snake which caused a lot of giggles.
We were very sad to leave Tarangire River Camp and it really was a fabulous place to stay. If you’re planning a trip to Tarangire National Park I’d have no hesitation in recommending it.
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What you need to know about Tarangire National Park?
Every time you head into a National Park in Tanzania you have to show them your paperwork or pay your fees to get in. You need to remember to take your forms, your passport and your money. You won’t get in without them.
How much is it to get into Tarangire National Park?
Conservation fee for Arusha, Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks for Non Nationals
a) Of or above the age of 16 years $45
b) Between the age of 5 and 15 years 15
c) Children below the age of 5 years free free
Toilet Tips in Tarangire National Park
Toilets at the Tarangire National Park gate were incredibly clean and the lady cleaning them was using more bleach than I’ve ever seen. I always however take tissues, wet wipes and anti bacterial gel in a small bag when I’m on safari so that we can all have a safe and happy toilet stop! Another tip is to take a couple of the brown bags from your room (the ones for sanitary products) in case you have to stop where there isn’t a toilet and you need to take away your tissue.
The toilets at the picnic stop in Tarangire National Park were however another matter and I would suggest that they did not exist. I held mine over a ‘space’ in the floor and we held our breath!