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 like the 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!
> established in 1960 with a size of 542 km²
> all year around – best during dry season: June to October
> 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
> game drives
> canoe safaris
> forest walks with waterfall visit
> mountain climbing of Meru
> 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
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 (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
Activities & Excursions in and near Arusha National Park
Canoe Safari – Momela Lakes
For adventurous travelers we recommend getting out of the vehicle and jumping into a canoe to explore the landscape of Arusha National Park. A canoe safari is a unique adventure to experiencing Tanzania’s wildlife from a different perspective. Each canoe ride varies between two to three hours in length. A fabulous chance to view buffaloes, hippos, giraffes and various water birds as well as soaking up the breathtaking scenery.
Walking Safari – Lake Duluti
Lake Duluti is a hidden gem in Arusha and a peaceful walking opportunity to avoid the bustle life of Arusha Town. An uneven path lets through the beautiful lake forests and your guide will explain more about the plants, trees, insects, birds, and small mammals that cross your way. Every now and then you might be able to glimpse a view of Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro. What a peaceful scenery!
Mountain Climbing – Mount Meru
Mount Meru is less known but just as striking as its big brother Mount Kilimanjaro. It is Tanzania’s second highest peak at 4,566 m. The 4-day climb is much more demanding but will reward those who take on the challenge with dramatic scenes of the volcanic crater and fantastic views of Mount Kilimanjaro – you might even catch a glimpse of wildlife within Arusha National Park!