Arusha National Park Tanzania
The closest national park to Arusha town – northern Tanzania safari capital – Arusha National Park is a multi-faceted jewel, often overlooked by safari goers, despite offering the opportunity to explore a beguiling diversity of habitats within a few hours. The entrance gate leads into a shadowy montane forest inhabited by inquisitive blue monkeys and colorful turaco and trogons – the only place on the northern safari circuit where the acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkey is easily seen. In the midst of the forest stands the spectacular Ngurdoto Crater, whose steep rocky cliffs enclose a wide marshy floor dotted with herds of buffalo and warthog.
It is a popular destination for day trip visitors who are about to embark from the town of Arusha on longer northern circuit safaris. The small national park includes the slopes, summit, and ash cone of Mt. Meru, the Momela Lakes, Ngurdoto Crater, and the lush highland forests that blanket its lower slopes. Game viewing around the Momela Lakes is at a laid-back and quiet pace, and while passing through the forest many visitors stop to search for troupes of rare colobus monkeys playing in the canopy.
Climbing Mt. Meru or enjoying the smaller trails that criss-cross its lower slopes is a popular activity for visitors to Arusha National Park. The three-day trek to reach the crater’s summit is a quieter, and some say more challenging alternative than the famous peak of nearby Mount Kilimanjaro. Along the lower slopes, the paths to rivers and waterfalls create a relaxing day hike for visitors who don’t want to attempt the rather arduous climb. Ancient fig tree forests, crystal clear waters cascading from mountain streams, and a chance to spot colobus monkeys are the attractions and pleasures of Arusha National Park.
Further north, rolling grassy hills enclose the tranquil beauty of the Momela Lakes, each one having a different hue of green or blue. There are shallows sometimes tinged pink with thousands of flamingos. The lakes support a rich selection of resident and migrant waterfowl, and also shaggy waterbucks that display their large lyre-shaped horns on the watery fringes. Giraffes glide across the grassy hills, between grazing zebra herds, whilst pairs of wide-eyed dik-dik dart into scrubby bush like overgrown hares on spindly legs.
Although elephants are uncommon in Arusha National Park, and lions are absent altogether, leopards and spotted hyenas may be seen slinking around in the early morning and late afternoon. It is also at dusk and dawn that the veil of cloud on the eastern horizon is most likely to clear, revealing the majestic snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro, which is only 50km (30 miles) away.
But it is Kilimanjaro’s unassuming cousin, Mount Meru – the fifth highest mountain in Africa at 4,566 meters (14,990 feet) – that dominates the park’s horizon. With its peaks and eastern foot slopes protected within the national park, Meru offers unparalleled views of its famous neighbor, while also forming a rewarding hiking destination in its own right.
Passing first through wooded savannah where buffalos and giraffes are frequently encountered, the ascent of Meru leads into forests aflame with red-hot pokers and dripping with Spanish moss, before reaching highly open heath spiked with giant lobelias. Everlasting flowers cling to the alpine desert, as delicately-hoofed klipspringers mark the hike’s progress. Astride the craggy summit, Kilimanjaro stands unveiled, blushing in the sunrise.
Size of Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park is a relatively small park, covering an area of 137 square kilometers (52.9 square miles), and lies near the town of Arusha. The town and the Park derive their name from the Warusha people who traditionally lived in this area. However, the Park also overlaps into areas where the Masai lived and most of the place names in the Park are of Masai origin.
Location of Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park covers Mount Meru, a prominent volcano with an elevation of 4566 m, in the Arusha Region of northeastern Tanzania. The park is small but varied with spectacular landscapes in three distinct areas. In the west, the Meru Crater funnels the Jekukumia River; the peak of Mount Meru lies on its rim.
How to Get to Arusha National Park
Arusha national park can easily be accessed, it’s easy a 40-minutes drive from Arusha. It is approximately 60 km (35 miles) from Kilimanjaro International Airport. The lakes, forest, and Ngurdoto Crater can all be visited in the course of a half-day outing at the beginning or end of an extended northern safari.
Things to do in Arusha National Park
The national park is easily accessible from Arusha and it offers a lot of activities for those looking to discover and explore Arusha.
Climbing Mount Meru
Three- or four-day to Mt Meru can be organized and this can be good acclimatization for Kilimanjaro.
This park is often overlooked by visitors, worried they will not see that much wildlife. However, Arusha National Park has such a lot to offer and dazzles with a perfect mix of flora and fauna and diversified landscapes. Passing the “small Serengeti” during a game drive, you are likely to spot peaceful herds of buffaloes, shy bushbucks on the edge of the forest as well as warthogs and zebras.
Arusha National Park is also home to about a handful of African elephants but due to their constant movement, they are hardly ever spotted. The same goes for leopards that roam the vast foggy forests of Mt Meru.
Heading towards the Ngurdoto Crater you will soon find yourself in a lush rainforest – a great place to spot the athletic black and white colobus monkey as well as the elegant mitis monkey. The Ngurdoto Crater is basically a smaller version of the Ngorongoro Crater and has a diameter of about 3 km. With a bit of luck, you might even spot buffaloes in the swamps on the crater floor.
Due to the low numbers of predators in the park, walking safaris are permitted. This is a must for anyone wanting to get a closer look at the moss-covered trees and the occasional red hot pokers as well as for those wanting to get up close to wildlife. Most common sightings whilst on a walking safari include buffaloes, warthogs, giraffes, and a variety of birds such as the silvery cheeked hornbill, little bee-eater, and the occasional long-crested eagle.
The walk takes visitors to the refreshing Tululusia waterfalls and back to the Momella gate. On the way towards the Momella Lakes, visitors are in for a treat as common waterbucks and reedbucks love to hang around the lakeshore. An array of water birds like cormorants, kingfishers, and beautiful flamingos are also often spotted. There are seven alkaline lakes to be seen and each lake has a different salt concentration.
Canoeing on Lake Momella
Visitors also have the option of going on a canoe trip on the small Momella Lake.
When to Visit Arusha National Park
In general, the best time to visit Arusha National Park is from June to October – the dry season when the animals are easier to observe as they congregate near freshwater sources, rainfall is minimal, foliage is less dense and mosquito levels are reduced.
Where to stay in Arusha National Park
River trees have long been one of our favorite safari lodges as the starting point for many of our Safaris in Northern Tanzania and one of our favorite closest standard lodges to Arusha National Park.
This safari lodge Nestled in the foothills of Mt Meru and commanding a majestic view of Kilimanjaro. This picturesque country estate combines old-world ambiance, rustic African elegance, excellent farm cuisine, personal service, and genuine warmth from your hosts.
Accommodation; There are 18 garden rooms, 2 river cottages and 1 river house.
- Distances to and from River trees Country inn
- Kilimanjaro International airport – 30 minutes
- Arusha town – 20 minutes
- Arusha National Park – 10 minutes
THINGS TO DO
|Climbing mount Meru from Arusha national park|
|Game drives in Arusha national park|
|Primate walks in Arusha national park|
|Walking safaris in Arusha national park|
|water fall hikes in Arusha national park|
|Canoeing on Lake Momella|
HOW TO GET THERE
|How to get to Arusha national park|
|3 Days Arusha national park safari|
|4 days Arusha national park safari|
|5 days hike Mount Meru|
WHEN TO GO
|Best time to visit Arusha national park|
WHERE TO STAY
|Lake Duluti Lodge|
|Mount Meru game Lodge|
|Rivertrees country inn|
|Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge|