Arusha National Park is situated in northern Tanzania between Arusha and Moshi Township. It is Tanzania’s smallest park and covers approximately 552 sq. km (212 sq. miles). The park features a variety of ecosystems, such as grasslands, swamps, crater lakes, highland forests, and much more, and the three largest landmarks in the park are Momela Lakes, Mount Meru, and Ngurdoto Crater. The Park is only a 45 minute’s drive from Arusha City center and is nested on the foothills of Mount Meru.
The other prominent features of the park are Ngongongare Springs, Lokie Swamp, Senato Pools, Lake Jembamba, and Lake Longil. Some of the small pools are dry until the rains, at which time you may see waterfowl, as well as other animals coming to drink. Grazing herbivores are frequently seen at Lake Longil and the rich grasses make it a lovely place for a picnic.
The game safaris take place in Ngurdoto Crater and the surrounding forest. A range of diverse wildlife is found in the park. The wetlands are home to hippos, the forests to colobus and blue monkeys whereas the wooded grasslands support elephants, buffalo, giraffes, zebra, and many species of antelope. Leopards and spotted hyenas are the major predators. There is cultural interaction and cultural experiences that include touring local villages, farms, and markets.
Mount Meru and Ash cone on the Momella route 60kms away, can take 4 days with a peak at 4566m above sea level. The shallow scenic views of Momella Lakes make Arusha National Park worth a visit with varying alga colors and about 400 bird species.
Things to do in Arusha National Park
Game Safaris with excellent populations of giraffes and primates.
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.
Birdwatching with over 400 bird species.
The Arusha National Park and particularly the Momella Lakes offer gorgeous bird-watching opportunities. The most famous bird species in the Arusha National Park are waterfowls such as little grebes, eagles, pochards, geese, hamerkop, red sharks, spur-winged geese, woodpeckers, herons, secretary birds, and grey parrots.
Walking safaris at the foothills of Mt. Meru and the Ngurdoto Crater Rim Trail
Ngurdoto Crater walking trail offers of exploring the various trails and observing the wildlife in their natural habitats such as buffalo, baboons, and warthogs. You can also visit the small Ngurdoto Museum at the Ngurdoto Crater. It shows the different methods used by poachers to illegally hunt animals.
Hiking to Mount Meru Waterfalls Hike will be worthwhile as get to interact with some of the local people living up the side of the mountain while viewing amazing scenery such as the surrounding mountains and valleys, and animals of all kinds.
Canoe safaris on Momella Lakes for 2-3 hours.
Momella Lakes are a collection of seven shallow lakes located in Arusha National Park. While canoeing look out for games such as giraffe, waterbuck, and antelope as well as a wide variety of birds. Momella Lakes are a collection of seven shallow lakes in the park. 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.
Climb Mount Meru, Tanzania’s second-highest peak.
Mt. Meru Climb takes only 3 or 4 days to climb and it’s perfect for helping visitors acclimatize if undertaken before the climb to Kilimanjaro. An armed park ranger will join the team to guard against any animal threats as you start your approach through Arusha National Park via the Momella route. Look out for sightings of baboons, giraffes, zebra, colobus monkeys, and a variety of birds. From here you start your ascent through Meru’s diverse vegetation zones from montane forest, moorland, semi-desert, and alpine desert until you reach its magnificent crater. Traverse around the crater rim to reach the summit, the Socialist Peak at 4566m thereafter you will explore the ash cone that was formed in the crater during the 1910 eruption.
Community-Based Tours/ Cultural experiences visiting the local villages, farms, and markets.
Immerse yourself in the rich tribal history of the Hadzabe and Datoga tribes. Experience a “day in the life” of a local villager as you take part in cultural activities specific to each tribe. Learn how to track wildlife and go hunting with the locals.
Get a chance to sample honey straight from a beehive and interact with the blacksmith and their artisan pieces. At the foothills of Mt. Meru, you may also participate in the daily life of the Meru people and discover their culture and history.
You may also visit the Cultural Heritage Center, you’ll see a stunning collection of East African art, including sculptures, jewelry, and textiles. The tour includes a visit to the art and craft shops, the museum, and the traditional huts. You can learn about the different tribes in Tanzania, their way of life, and their art and craft techniques.
You may also explore the Maasai Market, where you can buy traditional Maasai handicrafts, clothing, and jewelry.
Where to stay at Arusha National Park
The Kili Villa
This is a luxurious retreat situated on a golf and wildlife estate close to the park and only 30 mins from Arusha International Airport. The villa lodge features three luxurious villas for exclusive use only. A Deluxe Villa B33 (for 12 guests, 2 triples / 4 twin rooms), Superior Villa B32 (10 guests, 2 doubles / 3 twin rooms), and Standard Villa B43 (for 6 guests, 2 doubles / 1 twin room). Villa Tembo Mtoni is the superior option. This lodge offers horse riding, Canoeing, and Game drives.
Arusha Coffee Lodge
Ideally situated on the outskirts of Arusha, this lodge is a brilliant spot to stay either before, or after your safari in Tanzania. Hidden on the grounds of one of Tanzania’s largest coffee farms, with wonderful views of the Tanzanian countryside and away from the hustle and bustle of the city of Arusha. The lodge comprises 18 Plantation rooms, 12 Plantation suites, a Swimming pool, an a la carte’ restaurant, an intimate cafe bistro, and a cozy lounge, all of which have inviting open log fires to warm you from the cool night air, an intimate swimming pool, a garden terrace, and acres of lush coffee plantation.
Hatari Lodge is nested within the woodlands of Mt. Meru near the Momella meadow inside the Arusha National Park. The Lodge comprises 15 rooms in total, and each room is individually designed with dark wood, circular wall patterns, and color palettes that are inspired by the 1960s and 1970s. Large platform beds, wicker circle chairs on wrought iron pedestals, cowhide ottomans, and teardrop lightings are just some of the furnishings. The main building, the oldest on the property, is where you find the lounge and restaurant. Rich brown square floors, open beam ceilings, and fireplaces give the space an intimate and welcoming atmosphere, and the small library has a selection of reference books for your use.
Arusha Safari Lodge
Located only 20 minutes from the city, Arusha Safari Lodge is a conveniently-located and personable hotel in Arusha. The lodge has 2 guest rooms in the main building or any 7 poolside cottages situated by the gardens.
The best time to visit Arusha National Park
During the dry winter season from July to October. This is when the vegetation is thinner and sparser, and animals gather around retreating water sources, so wildlife is easier to spot.
There are two rainy seasons in Arusha National Park. The season of ‘short rains’ is between November and December with sporadic showers generally clearing up quite quickly. The wet season of March to May brings long, rainy days, and outdoor activities and safaris are often disrupted.
The wet season is best for bird watching, spotting newborn animals, and photographing the beautiful lush green landscapes. Birdwatchers are treated to over 400 different bird species found in the park, including the bright pink flocks of flamingos that cover the Momella Lakes.
How to get to Arusha National Park
It is 50 km which is about 1,5 hours over partly paved roads and from Kilimanjaro Airport about 1 hour.
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