Possibly the most beautiful of all the National Parks in Tanzania, this little gem will thrill you with her stunning landscape that encompasses three distinct ecosystems, each supporting a large and thriving animal population. Multi-faceted Arusha is like a microcosm of the African continent, boasting soaring mountains (Mt. Meru, at 4,566m is the fifth highest mountain in Africa), a beautiful and fertile volcanic crater, colourful lakes and verdant rain-forest. Arusha is not a Big Five Park but this is more than compensated for by the density and variety of smaller animals, birds and the outstanding landscape you will find here.
First there is beautiful Mount Meru which towers over the Park and is an active stratovolcano which last erupted in 1910. It is the fifth tallest mountain in Africa and can be snow-capped during the winter months. The slopes of Mt. Meru are abundantly fertile and support the montane forest which is home to many small mammals and primates.
The steep and craggy walls of the Ngurdoto Crater surround a beautiful savannah-like depression which is teeming with large numbers of Buffalo and Warthog and is often referred to as a miniature Ngorogoro due to the beauty of the landscape.
Finally there are the magical inter-linked Momella Lakes, each a different shade of bluey/green and home to scores of water birds, often including clouds of pink Flamingos. Surrounding the lakes are gently undulating hills which are the haunt of hundreds of Giraffe, Zebra and Gazelle – Arusha has the highest density of Giraffe of any of the Parks in Tanzania, probably because there are no Lions here!
The montane forest on the foothills of Mt. Meru is home to large numbers of primates, especially the acrobatic black-and-white Colobus Monkeys that can easily be seen darting from tree to tree. There are also many Blue (or Sykes) Monkeys and both species are regularly seen on a forest walk or game drive. Of course, where there are monkeys there will be Leopard, and Arusha is no exception – although they are elusive, there are regular Leopard sightings in the Park around dusk and dawn.
Safaris in Arusha National Park
The compact size of Arusha National Park means that it can be explored on a Day-Trip from Arusha town, either before or after you set off on your Safari to one Tanzania’s Big Five wildlife destinations. You can go on a full-day Game Drive which will take you to all three geographic zones so that you can get a chance to see all the diverse habitats of the Park. A day drive will usually include a picnic lunch in a scenic part of the Park. If you have a little more time, an overnight stay in the Park will prove very rewarding and will give you the opportunity to go on a guided game walk, a hike up Mt. Meru or a brilliant canoe safari on the Momella Lakes.
The Park has a great diversity of birds, and there are over 400 recorded species that live here. In particular, the Momella Lakes are particularly well-endowed with resident and migrant water fowl and waders, and can often be completely fringed by huge numbers of Greater and Lesser Flamingo.
A fabulous canoe safari on the Lakes will give you a whole new perspective on bird watching and is great fun! From your watery vantage point you will also be able to catch sight of many small animals coming to the lake shore to drink.
Hiking Mount Meru
You will be able to reach some exquisite gorges and waterfalls and see some remarkable forest vegetation if you have the time to go hiking on Mt. Meru. You will also have the best opportunity to see towering Mt. Kilimanjaro from the slopes of Mt. Meru.
Climbing Mount Meru
Are you thinking of climbing famous Mount Kilimanjaro? Mount Meru is a great “warm-up” climb! The trail follows the north rim of the crater along a spectacular ridgeline. Once you have reached the summit you will be rewarded by one of the best views you can imagine – across to Mount Kilimanjaro and down into the Mount Meru crater.
Accommodation in Arusha National Park
There are two Lodges inside the National Park and many more options within a 40min drive in Arusha town, the Safari capital of Tanzania. There are also two mountain huts for those who decide to climb Mount Meru.
How to Get There
Arusha National Park is just 40min by road from Arusha Town, and approximately 60km from Kilimanjaro International Airport.
Best Time to Go
Although the area surrounding Arusha National Park is quite dry, the Park remains green and beckoning all year round! If you are planning to climb Mt. Meru the best months are from June to February (excluding November when it could rain). You have the best chance of getting great views of Mt. Kilimanjaro from December to February, while the best time for all-round game viewing in Tanzania is from June to October.