Arusha National Park

Arusha National is one of Tanzania’s most accessible national parks. This makes it a convenient getaway for a savanna day trip at either the beginning or the end of one’s broader safari itinerary. At just 552 square kilometres, there’s no doubt that Arusha National Park is a small but adventure-laden wildlife paradise. The park is just a few kilometres northeast of Arusha, though the main gate is 25 km east of the city. It is also 58 km from Moshi and 35 km from Kilimanjaro International Airport.

Arusha National Park covers Mount Meru, a prominent Volcano with an elevation of 4566 m, in the Arusha Region of northeastern Tanzania. The park is small but varied with spectacular landscapes in three distinct areas. In the west, the Meru Crater funnels the Jekukumia River; the peak of Mount Meru lies on its rim.Ngurdoto Crater in the southeast is grassland. The shallow alkaline Momella Lakes in the northeast have varying algal colours and are known for their wading birds.

Mount Meru is the second highest peak in Tanzania after Mountain Kilimanjaro, which is just 60 km away and forms a backdrop to views from the park to the east. Arusha National Park lies on a 300-kilometre axis of Africa’s most famous national parks, running from Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater in the west to Mountain Kilimanjaro National Park in the east.

Arusha National Park has a rich variety of wildlife, but visitors should not expect the same game-viewing experience they find in other national parks of Tanzania’s northern circuit. Despite the small size of the park, common animals include giraffe, Cape buffalo, zebra. Warthog, the white and black colobus monkey, the blue monkey, flamingo, elephants, bushbuck and many other African animals. Leopard populations are present, but rarely seen. Birdlife in the forest is prolific, with many forest species more easily seen here than elsewhere on the tourist route, Narina trogon and bar-tailed trogon are both possible highlights for visiting birders, whilst the range of starling species provide somewhat less gaudy interest.

The park is also a home for a variety of bird species as it is covered by a series of vegetation cover including forests and green savannah grasslands, which are perfect home to over 400 bird species. Birds found in the park include; Hadada Ibis, Sacred Ibis, Greater Pink Flamingo, Lesser Pink Flamingo, Silver Cheeks Hornbill, White-necked raven, African Fish Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Bar-tailed Trogon, Mangbettu Sawwing, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Red-billed Teal

The best time for bird watching is during the months of October to April, in addition to resident birds in the park are also present the migratory ones who come here from North Africa, Europe and Asia.

What to do in Arusha National Park

Arusha National Park is a great tourist destination in Tanzania offering breath-taking and memorable experiences to tourists visiting the park for a safari, safari activities offered in the park include

 

Game Drives/ Viewing

Thanks to its vast diversity in natural habitats and small size, Arusha National Park has fantastic wildlife densities. Many game drives occur in the Ngurdoto Crater and the surrounding forest, where the largest densities of elephants, buffalos and hippos are found.

The Serengeti Ndogu, or little Serengeti, is a vast and golden savannah grassland where many of the plains game graze and is also a great addition to any game drive.

Head out in the early morning for the best game viewing opportunities, and pack a picnic lunch for when you get hungry.

Animals to spot include dik dik, leopards, cape buffaloes, shy red duiker and giraffes among others.

 

Walking Safari

Accompanied by a park ranger, you will make your way through the various forest and savannah habitats, observing wildlife from a safe distance. This is also a great opportunity to spot some of Tanzania’s wonderful birdlife.

One of the highlights on a walking safari is walking up to the top of  Tululusia Hill, a former lookout point during Tanzania’s tribal wars, which has panoramic views of the lower reaches of Arusha National Park.

 

Canoe Safari

Drift along the shallow waters of the Small Momella Lake in a canoe while enjoying scenic views of the surrounding bush and wildlife coming to the shores for a drink.

Canoe trips often last 2-3 hours and are a great alternative to the traditional safari experience. Expect to see animals like hippopotamus, tawny eagle, bush bucks, giraffes, necked raven, African Fish Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Bar-tailed Trogon, Mangbettu Sawwing, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose,

Apart from Arusha National Park, only Lake Manyara (when the water level is sufficient) and Lake Duluti in Arusha offer canoe experiences.

 

Bird Watching

Arusha national park offers amazing bird watching experience in Tanzania, the park is a home to over 400-bird species including the migrant bird species, which are present in the park in the period of November to April. Expect to see birds like Hadada Ibis, Sacred Ibis, Greater Pink Flamingo, Lesser Pink Flamingo, Silver Cheeks Hornbill, White-necked raven, African Fish Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Bar-tailed Trogon, Mangbettu Sawwing, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Red-billed Teal

The best time for bird watching is during the months from October to April; in addition to resident birds in the park also present are the migratory birds, which come here from North Africa, Europe and Asia.

 

Mountain climbing

The famous Mount Meru stands 4566 meters above sea level; Mount Meru is the second highest peak in Tanzania after Mount Kilimanjaro. Climbing mount Meru will give you a thrilling experience as you encounter wild and plant life as you ascend to the top, the sloping Forest hills will expose you to primates like the white and black Columbus monkeys, red-tailed monkey, olive baboon and many more while the wooded Savannah vegetation is filled with giraffes and zebras grazing.

Before reaching the peak, tourists will come across Kiplinger’s and lots of flowers clinging on the alpine desert area. Mount Meru also offers excellent views of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is just about 60 kilometers afar off.

WhEN TO VISIT Arusha National Park

Arusha National Park is one of Tanzania’s hidden gems, so the park is never crowded. January and February are semi-dry months as they are set in between the two rainy seasons short and long. Like other wilderness areas in Tanzania, Arusha National Park experiences wet and dry seasons. The dry season is from June to October, and the two wet seasons are mid-March to May, the period of long rains, and November to December, the period of short rains.

In general, the best time to visit Arusha National Park is from June to October; the dry season when the animals are easier to observe as they congregate near fresh water sources, rainfall is minimal, foliage is less dense and mosquito levels are reduced. From November to December and March through May, the rains transform the landscape as lush, green grasses emerge, and this is also the time when migratory birds arrive in the park.

During the short rains, it does not typically rain throughout the day, so your Arusha safari activities should not be affected. The long rains, though, bring cloudy skies, occasional colder temperatures and more soil moisture, so road and path conditions may be affected, in addition to the inability to safely canoe at Momella Lakes. The weather also affects the views and climbing opportunities. The clear skies from December through February give you the best views of Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro.

HOW TO GET To Arusha National Park

Arusha NP is only a 45-minute drive away from the town of Arusha, the starting point of any safari in northern Tanzania. The park can be accessed by road and air; it is at a distance of 25 kilometers from the city to the main gate. From Moshi city, the park is at a distance of 58 kilometers.

The easiest is to get a direct flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), which is situated about 46km/29mi from Arusha. Alternatively, you can fly to Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR), near Dar es Salaam and get a connecting domestic flight to Arusha Airport (ARK) or Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).

Domestic flights to Arusha are offered by Safari Air Link, Zan Air, Precision Air, and Regional Air among others.