Arusha National Park
At 552 sq. kms, Arusha National Park is by far the smallest national park in Tanzania. It is not far from the city of Arusha, just 30 kilometers away, which is a 40 minute drive. This park offers remarkable natural beauty and protects the slopes of Mount Meru.
If you have some time, however, you shouldn't miss some beautiful hikes in the foothills of Mount Meru, as well as the gentle game drives and walking safaris that make a trip here worthwhile.
Is it Worth Visiting?
While Arusha National Park does not have the Big Five African mammals except for buffalo, it offers visitors spectacular scenery and variety of animals such as different species of monkeys, giraffe, zebra and the world's cutest antelope, the dik-dik.
It also has the highest density of giraffes anywhere on earth.
Despite its small area, the park boasts an amazing variety of landscapes. Even in the dry season, the Arusha National Park still looks comparatively green.
The view of the summit of Mount Meru, which at 4,566 meters is the third highest mountain in Tanzania, is impressive. And with a bit of luck on a clear day you can even see Kilimanjaro 50 kilometers away.
Often overlooked by visitors on a Tanzania safari, Arusha National Park offers the opportunity to explore a wide variety of habitats within a few hours. Activities in Arusha National Park include the usual game drives but also guided hikes with numerous picnic areas, canoeing and a three to four day climb of Mount Meru for the adventurous visitor.
Fit a Day Trip in Your Itinerary
In terms of fitting a day trip to Arusha National Park into an itinerary, it is best to plan it for the first day or the last day of the safari. This allows travelers to acclimate to the local time zone, get a feel for the safari experience, and relax before or after embarking on longer safari drives. Additionally, a day trip to Arusha National Park can be combined with a cultural visit to a nearby Maasai village or a hike on Mount Meru for a more comprehensive experience.
If you want to experience Tanzania safari but does not want to travel as far as Tarangire or Lake Manyara, then a day trip to Arusha National Park is a perfect option. The park is located only a short drive from Arusha town and offers a great opportunity to see some of Tanzania's iconic wildlife, including giraffes, zebras, and buffaloes. Note that lions and leopards are almost never spotted here.
The park is also home to the Ngurdoto Crater, which is often referred to as the "Little Ngorongoro" due to its resemblance to the larger Ngorongoro Crater.
The crater is an enormous caldera, which measures around 3 kms in diameter and is surrounded by steep walls that rise up to 400 meters in height.
The lush greenery that covers the crater floor provides a stark contrast to the rocky terrain of the surrounding walls, and it is home to a range of wildlife, including buffalo, baboons, and warthogs.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the crater, where they can explore the various trails and observe the wildlife in their natural habitat.
Momella Lakes are a collection of seven shallow lakes located in Arusha National Park. The lakes are known for their varying colors, which range from blue-green to pink, and are surrounded by picturesque scenery, including lush forests, rolling hills, and stunning waterfalls.
They are home to a diverse range of bird species, including flamingos, herons, and kingfishers, making it a popular destination for bird watchers.
Visitors can go on guided canoe ride across the lakes or take a leisurely stroll around the shores.
Things to do in Arusha National Park
You can go on wonderful day hikes with a ranger such as those below.
- Momella Gate to Itikoni and then back to Momella Gate. The hiking time is 4 hours.
- Kitoto Viewpoint to Njeku Viewpoint and then descent through Meru Crater back to Kitoto Viewpoint. Hiking time is 4 hours.
- Momella Gate to Tululusia Waterfall and back to Momella Gate. Hiking time 1.5 hours
- Ngurdoto Crater Rim Hiking Trails: Laitong to Buffalo (5 hours), Buffalo to Kaitong (6 hours)
Canoe Safaris are unique to this national park and you can do this on the colorful Momella Lakes. While canoeing it is possible to see animals such as giraffe, waterbuck and antelope as well as a wide variety of birds.
You can also visit the small Canoe Safaris are unique to this national park and you can do this on the colorful Momella Lakes. While canoeing it is possible to see animals such as giraffe, waterbuck and antelope as well as a wide variety of birds.
You can also visit the small Ngurdoto Museum at the Ngurdoto Crater. It shows the different methods used by poachers to illegally hunt animals.
Last but not the least, you can embark on game drives in a safari vehicle.
Wildlife in Arusha National Park
- African Elephants: These majestic creatures can be spotted wandering through the park's grasslands and forests.
- Giraffes: The park's acacia woodlands are a favorite haunt of the towering giraffes, which can often be seen gracefully grazing on treetops.
- Zebras: The park is home to both the common plains zebra and the rare Grevy's zebra, with their distinctive thin stripes.
- Buffalo: Herds of African buffalo can be seen in the grasslands, sometimes with birds perched on their backs.
- Warthogs: These comical-looking creatures can be found rooting around for food in the park's open areas.
- Primates: Arusha National Park is home to a range of primates, including black-and-white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, and baboons.
- Birds: With over 400 bird species, the park is a paradise for birdwatchers. The park's lakes are particularly good places to spot flamingos, pelicans, and other waterfowl.
In addition to game drives, walking safaris in Arusha National Park offer visitors a more intimate and immersive wildlife experience. Walking safaris allow visitors to get up close and personal with the park's flora and fauna, under the guidance of an experienced guide. The walks typically take place in the foothills of Mount Meru and the Ngurdoto Crater, and offer a unique opportunity to spot animals like dik-diks, bushbucks, and other small mammals that might be missed on a game drive. They also offer a chance to learn about the park's ecology, geology, and cultural history.