Arusha National Park Safari Guide – Scenic Park With Mount Meru and Momela Lakes

A popular day trip for visitors about to embark from the town of Arusha on longer northern circuit safaris, Arusha National Park is home to a variety of habitats with spectacular views of Mt. Meru, the crater that gives the region its name. This small national park includes the slopes, summit, and ash cone of Mt. Meru, the Momela Lakes, Ngurdoto Crater, and the lush highland forests that blanket its lower slopes.

At only 137 sq. km (53 sq. miles) in size it is Kilimanjaro’s unassuming cousin, Mount Meru – the fifth highest in Africa at 4,566 metres (14,990 feet) – that dominates the park’s horizon. After passing through wooded savannah where buffalos and giraffes are frequently seen, the ascent of Meru leads into forests aflame with red-hot pokers and dripping with Spanish moss, before reaching high open heath spiked with giant lobelias. Everlasting flowers cling to the alpine desert, as delicately-hoofed klipspringers mark the hike’s progress.

Safari Game Drive

Arusha National Park is often overlooked for the big game parks of Tarangire and Serengeti, but for travellers who make the effort, they will find one of East Africa’s most scenic parks with a dramatic backdrop of Mt. Meru.

Wildlife in Arusha National Park

Arusha National Park has a good diversity of wildlife. In the midst of the forest stands the spectacular Ngurdoto Crater, whose steep, rocky cliffs enclose a wide marshy floor dotted with herds of buffalo and warthog. Game viewing around the Momela Lakes is at a laid-back and quiet pace, and while passing through the forest many visitors stop to search for troupes of rare colobus monkeys playing in the canopy.

Although elephants are uncommon in Arusha National Park, and lions absent altogether, leopards and spotted hyenas may be seen slinking around in the early morning and late afternoon. It is also at dusk and dawn that the veil of cloud on the eastern horizon is most likely to clear, revealing the majestic snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro, only 50km (30 miles) distant.

Safari Activities in Arusha National Park

Climbing Mt. Meru

The trek to the summit of Mt. Meru is usually skipped in favour of its bigger neighbour Mt. Kilimanjaro to the west, but the sheer beauty and challenge of a three or four-day climb makes it a must-do for trekkers. The early parts of the trail pass through lush rainforests of fig trees and colubus monkeys high in the canopy.

As you climb higher, the cloud forest clears in the late afternoon to reveal striking vistas of Kilimanjaro and the volcano chain on the edge of the Rift Valley. The last distance before the summit passes over the crater ridge – an exhilarating experience, and not one for the faint-hearted. A climb of Meru provides good acclimatisation for Kilimanjaro.

The best time to climb is between June-February although it may rain in November. The best views of Kilimanjaro are from December-February.

Forest Walks and Waterfalls

Easy forest walks and numerous picnic sites make Arusha National Park an attractive place for a one day safari.  Along the lower slopes, paths to rivers and waterfalls make a relaxing day hike for visitors who don’t want to attempt the rather arduous climb to the summit of Mount Meru. Take a picnic and find a quiet spot near a waterfall.

Highlights of Arusha National Park

 1 Search for inquisitive blue monkeys, colourful turacos and acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkeys.
 2 Take a 3 or 4 day hike to the summit of Africa’s fifth highest mountain for spectacular views of Kilimanjaro.
 3 Enjoy a game drive around the Momela Lakes and spot giraffe, zebra, buffalo and an abundance of birdlfe.

Tanzania Parks & Reserves

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Serengeti National Park

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Kilimanjaro National Park

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Selous Game Reserve

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Mahale Mountains

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Arusha National Park

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Lake Manyara

ruaha leopard

Ruaha National Park

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Gombe Stream

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Ngorongoro Crater

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Mkomazi National Park

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Kitulo National Park

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Uzungwa Mountains

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Tarangire National Park

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Mikumi National Park

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Saadani National Park

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Katavi National Park

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