Arusha National Park is located 60kms west of Moshi Town. The park covers an area of 552 sq km and includes Mount Meru, a prominent volcano with an elevation of 4,566m. It forms stunning backdrop views from the park to the east. On a clear day, Mount Kilimanjaro can also be seen.
The closest national park to Arusha town – northern Tanzania’s 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 shadowy montane forest inhabited by inquisitive blue monkeys and colourful turacos 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.
Further north, rolling grassy hills enclose the tranquil beauty of the Momela Lakes, each one a different hue of green or blue. Their shallows sometimes tinged pink with thousands of flamingos, the lakes support a rich selection of resident and migrant waterfowl, and shaggy waterbucks display their large lyre-shaped horns on the watery fringes. Giraffes glide across the grassy hills, between grazing zebra herds, while 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 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, only 50km (30 miles) distant.
But it is Kilimanjaro’s unassuming cousin, Mount Meru – the fifth highest in Africa at 4,566 metres (14,990 feet) – that dominates the park’s horizon. Its peaks and eastern foots lopes protected within the national park, Meru offers unparalleled views of its famous neighbour, 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 high 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.
The park has three spectacular features: Momella Lake, Meru Crater and the Ngurudoto crater. Wildlife includes antelopes, buffalo, Leopard, Spotted hyena, Baboon, Colobus monkey, Giraffe, Hippopotomus, Burchell’s Zebra and over 300 species of birds. The park is perfect for those with Limited time as it can be viewed in a day or alongside your Mt Meru trek.
With an area of 137 sq. km, Arusha National Park is one of the smaller and most beautiful National Parks in Tanzania. Situated only 37 km from Arusha town, the park is very popular for day trips. The Ngurdoto Crater, Momela Lakes, the highland montane forest, and the rugged Mount Meru (4575 m above sea level) are the four distinctive features of the park. Mt. Kilimanjaro, towering at 5895 m to the east, can be visible on clear days from many locations in the park. One of the unique attractions of the park is the opportunity to combine game drives and a nature walk in the many places where visitors can leave their safari vehicles and walk in the fresh air.
The most common animals found in this park are the Abyssinian black and white colobus monkeys, the Vervet monkeys, the red forest duikers, hippos, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, bushbucks and sometimes the leopard. More than 400 species of birds have been recorded in the park including Eurasian migrants, which can be seen between October and April. Mount Meru 4575 m can be scaled in three to four days, with overnight accommodation in alpine huts on your way up and down.