This beautiful Park has often been called a little gem and rightly so. It is only ½ an hour by tarmac road from Arusha town, the safari center of northern Tanzania. With mountains, valleys, lakes, and small plains clothed in green, it has a wonderful feeling of peace and solitude. It is dominated by Mount Meru, which at 4,566 m (14,980 ft) is the 3rd highest free-standing mountain in Africa.
Wildlife at Arusha National Park
It is a habitat for a wide variety of mammals including bushbuck, giraffe, elephant, leopard (rarely seen!), monkeys, duiker, baboon, buffalo, waterbuck, and hippo. The birdlife is spectacular with over 450 species recorded. The game viewing track that winds around the Momella Lakes is a great way to get close to and watch lesser and greater flamingo.
Arusha National Park is probably the best place in Tanzania to watch black and white colobus monkeys, and also to listen to their loud and guttural territorial calls echoing through the forests.
Mt. Meru is a dormant volcano about 1 ½ million years old. One side exploded out about 8,000 years ago as Meru’s caldera lake was transformed into super-heated steam by an inner eruption. One of the largest landslides of mud and rock ever measured worldwide took place, forming hillocks, valleys, and small lakes. The geologists estimate that before Mount Meru blew its top it was a tall, symmetrical volcanic spire almost as high as Mount Kilimanjaro.
This interesting and broken terrain is now clad in patches of forest and bush at the lower end and pristine rain forest on the upper slopes.
At the bottom end of the Park is another small, but complete, volcanic crater called Ngurdoto, which has recently been opened to guided hikes. It is a secret paradise, with a lake on one side and elsewhere clothed in virgin forest and a network of open grassy glades. A track follows the rim with look-out points established where one can relax with a picnic and look down into this secret world of swamps and plains and spot buffalo, warthog, and occasional elephant enjoying its tranquility
Things to do
are possible all year round on a well-maintained network of roads and tracks.
Arusha National Park is a great place for walking and a place where one can enjoy natural forests in comfort because of the cool climate. Hiking has to be arranged at one of the two gates. A fee is payable online and any walk has to be accompanied by an armed ranger.
Mount Meru Hiking
This is a 3 nights 4 days adventure using the mountain huts Miriakamba and Saddle huts. It has to be prearranged by a local tour operator requiring porters and an armed Ranger escort. The hike traverses several vegetation zones including beautiful montane forests. Expect to see wildlife en route including buffalo, giraffe, monkeys, baboons, antelope, and lots of birds.
Canoeing is possible by prior arrangement on Small Momella Lake, with buffalo, giraffe, bushbuck, waterbuck, and hippo often is seen. Wading and water birds are of course common.
Horseback treks can be combined with overnight stays in camps within the Park (but not the horses). Riding on horses through the cool forests and glades of the Park is a beautiful way to enjoy the sights, sounds, and scents of these wild places without the noise of vehicles.
Wild animals quickly habituate to being close to horses. These treks are led by experienced guides who are careful about guest safety. This activity needs prior arrangement with the tour operator, and every guest will be expected to show an ability to ride horses
How to get there?
Arusha town is only ½ an hour away on a tarmac road.
There are special and public campsites, as well as seasonal campsites that can be booked for travelers or companies with their own camps. There are huts for climbers of Mount Meru to use.
Hotels and lodges for visitors to use are also sited outside the Park, and of course inside and outside Arusha itself.
Being so close to, and between Arusha city and Kilimanjaro International Airport, Arusha National Park can feature at the start of your safari using one of the small lodges or camps that are just outside the Park. However, it is also a wonderful way to end a safari because its green tranquility and cool climate are a perfect antidote to an often hot and dusty main safari.