Located just a short drive from Arusha and Moshi, Arusha National Park is Tanzania’s most accessible national park and the perfect place for a day trip or as the first stop on a longer Tanzania safari. It’s a small park with a lot to see – it includes the slopes, summit, and ash cone of Mt. Meru, Ngurdoto Crater, the Momella Lakes, and the lush highland forests that cover its lower slopes. The closest national park to northern Tanzania’s safari capital, the town of Arusha, Arusha National Park is a multi-faceted diamond that is often bypassed by safari goers, despite offering the opportunity to explore an engaging diversity of habitats within a few hours. After your Arusha NP safari, you may like to check out some of Tanzania’s other breathtaking national parks; take a look at our guides to Tarangire National Park and Serengeti National Park to get a better idea of what else is on offer.
Game viewing around the Momella Lakes in Arusha is at a laid-back and quiet pace, and while passing through the forest many visitors stop to search for troupes of rare colubus monkeys playing in the canopy. Although elephants are rare in Arusha National Park and lions are totally absent, leopards and spotted hyenas may be seen in the early morning and late afternoon. Giraffes glide across the grassy hills, between grazing zebra herds, while pairs of wide-eyed dik-dik dart into the bush. The park provides excellent birding year, particularly between November and April when migratory birds from Europe and North Africa are present and the local birds display their breeding plumage.
Beyond the entrance gate is a shadowy montane forest inhabited by curious blue monkeys and colorful turacos and trogons – the only place on the northern safari circuit where you can easily see the acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkey. In the forest, you’ll find the spectacular Ngurdoto Crater, whose steep rocky cliffs enclose a wide marshy floor with herds of warthog and buffalo.
Popular activities for visitors to Arusha National Park are climbing Mt. Meru or enjoying the smaller trails among its lower slopes. The three-day trip to reach the crater’s summit is a quieter, and possibly more challenging alternative to the peak of nearby Mount Kilimanjaro.
Along the lower slopes, the paths to rivers and waterfalls provide a relaxing day hike for visitors who don’t want to attempt a difficult climb. Among the other pleasures of Arusha National Park are the ancient fig tree forests, crystal clear waters falling from mountain streams and a chance to spot colobus monkeys are the attractions.
It is at dusk and dawn that the clouds on the eastern horizon are most likely to clear, revealing the majestic snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro, which is only 50 km away.
But it’s Mount Meru, Kilimanjaro’s cousin – the fifth highest mountain in Africa at 4566 meters – that dominates the horizon of the park. With its peaks and eastern foot slopes protected inside the national park, Meru offers amazing views of its more famous neighbor, while also providing an excellent and rewarding hiking destination by itself.
First passing through wooded savannah where giraffes and buffaloes are often seen, the ascent of Meru leads into forests with red-hot pokers and dripping with Spanish moss, before reaching highly open heath spiked with giant lobelias. Klipspringers mark the hike’s progress as everlasting flowers cling to the alpine desert. Next to the summit of Mount Meru, Kilimanjaro stands unveiled in the sunrise 1350
The Momella Lakes inside Arusha National Park are made up of seven shallow lakes: Big Momella, Small Momella, Lekandiro, Kusare, Tulusia, Rishateni, and
Alkaline lakes with a large amount of algae growth, each of these lakes is a different shade of green or blue. While the water is not suitable for drinking, you can see a variety of birds including flamingoes and animals such as waterbucks, giraffes, zebras, and dik-diks in the surrounding area. On Small Momella Lake it’s possible to go on a canoeing safari.
Arusha National Park is also a perfect place to get out and stretch your legs on
a walking safari. Due to the low number 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 close to wildlife.
Most common sightings while 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 will take you to the Tululusia waterfalls and back to the Momella gate.
Start planning your Arusha National Park tour by filling the form below