Despite a modest size, only 137 square kilometers, 552 square kilometers if you include the area occupied by the Meru Mount, the Arusha National Park is one of the most beautiful parks of Tanzania and contains within it a remarkable diversity in terms of both flora and fauna, thanks to the considerable difference in altitude between the different areas of the park; it passes from an altitude of 1,400 meters to over 4,500 meters; it follows that there are different habitats: from the savannah to rainforest up to a deep-sea desert; and it also follows that the species of animals that inhabit these areas vary as well.
It also contains inside one of the higher concentrations of animals throughout Tanzania.
On a clear day from here you have a spectacular view of the Kilimanjaro Mount that is only 50km away and that, with its 5,895 meters height, dominates the landscape.
This park is still little known among travelers and, therefore, is rarely visited and this is a real shame, because it deserves more attention; the positive aspect is that it is never crowded as it happens to other Tanzanian parks.
The Arusha name comes from the name of the local population of the region, the Warusha; while inside the park many places have a name in Maa language, the language spoken by the Maasai, who are also present in the region.
The main areas of the park
- the Meru Mount: the second highest mountain in Tanzania, and one of the highest on the African continent, it is an active volcano that in the past has been protagonist of legendary eruptions, its profile is also visible from the city of Arusha;
- the Ngurdoto Crater and the small Serengeti: the first is the caldera of an extinct volcano, on whose slopes grows a dense montane rainforest, while inside its marshland it is home to many animals; while the second is a portion of the savannah reminding of the Serengeti National Park in miniature;
- the Momela Lakes: seven small alkaline lakes with low and calm waters where algae proliferate, they are a haven for many species of waterfowls.
These areas are very different from each other from a landscape point of view, also some biomes, such as the rainforest, are present only in this park North of Tanzania.
The park wildlife is very abundant, particularly frequent the sightings of: buffalos, zebras, waterbucks, bushbucks or striatum tragelafo, dik-diks, warthogs and baboons; also here is the largest population of giraffes across the continent, the species present in the Arusha is the Masai giraffe.
Moreover, with a little luck, you can spot elephants, reedbucks or cervicapra redunca, duikers, hippos and blue monkeys and black and white colobus; this is the only North park where you can spot so easily these marvelous primates.
In the park there are also leopards and hyenas, but to be able to spot them you need a lot of luck; however there are no lions and rhinos due to the poaching of the 80’s.
In the park there are up to 400 species of birds, a high concentration for an area so little extended, many migrate here, in the period from October to April, from Europe, Asia and North Africa; many of them are aquatic birds that congregate near the alkaline lakes.
Finally, in the park live 10 species of amphibians and 24 species of reptiles.
In the Arusha National Park you can do different activities: game drive is just one of them; in fact you can make walking safaris at the base of the Meru Mount or on the edge of the Ngurdoto Crater, usually walks up take to a maximum of four hours and you need to be escorted by an armed ranger of the park; you can also go canoeing in the waters of the Little Momela, this is the only National Park in Tanzania where you can carry out this activity; finally, you can also walk up to the Njeku Belvedere at the bottom of the crater of the Meru Mount or you can go trekking and ascend to the summit of the Meru Mount, many undertake this journey, lasting 4 days, to prepare physically and mentally the rise of the Kilimanjaro Mount that is much more challenging.
Most visitors get in from the main entrance, the Ngongongare Gate; from here you have direct access to the Serengeti Ndogo, or little Serengeti: a portion of open savannah with some acacia grove where mainly giraffes, many species of antelope, gazelles, elephants, leopards and hyenas live.
Continuing to the right, along the Park Road, climbing along the slopes of the Ngurdoto caldera you suddenly find yourself in the dense rainforest; here you can spot several species of monkeys and baboons, leopards and antelopes who prefer wooded areas.
From the Serengeti Ndogo instead, going straight along the Outer Road, you reach the Momela Lakes, even here there are good chances of spotting animals, especially aquatic birds, such as flamingos; moreover, the road that runs through it is scenic, in fact, from here you can see very well the Meru Mount.
Leaving the Momela Lakes on your right and continuing along the road that leads to the West you reach the Momela Gate where the main ranger station is, from here you enter the area of the park occupied by the Meru Mount.
The park is only 30 km from the town of Arusha, 65km from Moshi and 40km from the Kilimanjaro International Airport; this makes it easily accessible and it can be visited by all those transiting in these areas to continue their journey to the Circuit of the Northern Parks of Tanzania.
The areas of the Park
- The Meru Mount
- The Ngurdoto Crater and the Small Serengeti
- The Momela Lakes