Arusha National Park

Arusha, located on the foothills of Mount Meru and just west of Mount Kilimanjaro, is the safari capital of Tanzania. Almost all the Northern Tanzania safaris start here as the majority of tour operators are based in Arusha. Arusha National Park, located just 45 minutes outside of the city center, is a multifaceted jewel that is often overlooked.

Standing in the shadows of the more famous parks such as Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti, this national park is rarely visited. Yet this very circumstance is what makes Arusha National Park so worthwhile. As an off-the-beaten-track destination, it is only a short hop from Arusha Town and can easily be added to any Northern Tanzania safari.

Arusha National Park is not very big and can be explored within a few hours. Most travelers experience their safari in an open-roofed 4×4 safari vehicle; however, in Arusha National Park, you’ll get an opportunity to leave the car and explore the park’s incredibly diverse habitats by foot or canoe. A great way to experience the beauty of Tanzania!

Main Facts

established in 1960 with a size of 542 km²

Best Time

all year around – best during dry season: June to October

Common Animals

Antelopes: bushbuck, reedbuck, waterbuck
Big Five: buffalo, elephant (rarely seen)
Birds: more than 400 species incl. flamingos
Cats: hardly ever seen
Mammals: giraffe, hippo, warthog, zebra
Primates: baboon, black-and-white colobus, vervet

Activities

game drives
canoe safaris
forest walks with waterfall visit
mountain climbing

Expectations

easily accessible from Arusha Town
Momela Lakes: shallow alkaline lakes with various water fowls
Mount Meru: Tanzania’s second highest mountain
Ngurdoto Crater: swampy grassland inhabited by various mammals
Beautiful scenery with lush montane forest
Stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro on clear days

Further Details – Arusha National Park

Vegetation

Arusha National Park is one of the most stunning and topographically varied parks of Northern Tanzania. It combines diverse vegetation zones due to its varying altitudes and geologies. These zones are divided into three main areas: the Ngurdoto Crater with its swamp-filled floor, the shallow and alkaline Momela lakes and Mount Meru.

Wildlife

Arusha National Park boasts a large variety of wildlife despite its small size. From the park gate, the road leads through a lush montane forest, home to African primates such as the graceful blue monkey, the distinctive mantled guereza and many bird species including trogons and turacos.

As the road continues towards the border of the well-known Ngurdoto Crater, the forest ends with a riverine fringe. The crater floor is swampy with a wide grassland plain, the so-called ‘Little Serengeti’, in the west. Herds of buffaloes, bushbucks, warthogs and zebras are encountered here.

Continuing further north, one reaches the legendary seven Momela lakes (Big Momella, Small Momella, Kusare, Lekandiro, Tulusia, Rishateni and El Kekhotoito). Their shore lines are colored in pink thanks to thousands of flamingos who come to feed at the lakes.

The Momela lakes play an important role as they support a large variety of waterfowl such as cormorants, pelicans, storks, fish eagles and kingfishers. They are fed by underground water springs with varying mineral content.

In the lush hills surrounding the lakes, one often finds grazing giraffes. On very rare occasions, elephants, leopards and spotted hyenas can be seen here.

Mount Meru

Mount Meru (4566 m) is omnipresent in Arusha National Park. It is quite remarkable and especially known for its foggy forest, moss-covered trees, red-hot pokers and alpine desert zone. Mount Meru’s unique appearance is the result of a volcanic eruption that destroyed its eastern wall and left a horseshoe-shaped crater behind.

Standing in the shadows of its big brother, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru struggles to attract the attention it deserves. The 4-day climb is much more demanding but will reward those who take on the challenge with fantastic views of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Great Rift Valley. Experienced climbers will find a great alternative to Kilimanjaro here – and with far fewer climbers!

Which travelers will particularly enjoy Arusha National Park?

  • travelers who are looking for a daytrip destination and are interested in a short safari
  • travelers who want to slowly get used to Africa and the upcoming safari highlights
  • travelers who want to actively explore the park on foot or by canoe

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