Arusha National Park is among the smallest national parks in Tanzania with an area of 137 sq km. The park is often the gateway point for the 300-km long axis of Tanzania’s most famous safari circuit which has some of the most iconic protected areas like Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Even though it is small, it has myriad of things that tourists will like and adore which often leave them surprised.
The park is topographically varied with many landforms. Its three of the most significant features are the Mount Meru, Momela Lakes, and Ngurdoto Crater. The diverse and varied wildlife and birdlife is another highlight of Arusha National Park. But despite of this, the park receives way less tourists and visited mostly as a half-day drive or as a concluding stop.
Arusha National Park is a perfect trip for day safaris, as it is close to both Arusha and Moshi. With terrain that ranges from open savannah to tropical rainforest, the park is dominated by the shadow of Mt. Meru – whose summit offers an unparalleled view of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The park’s highlights can easily be seen in a single day, with a morning or afternoon game drive accompanied by either a walking safari or canoeing in Small Momella Lake where the hippos are at play.
Arusha National Park is also home to Africa’s largest giraffe population, and its diverse landscapes are also home to antelopes, buffalo, monkeys (including the blue monkey and the black and white colobus monkey), hyenas, and even the ever elusive leopard
The main tourist attraction of Arusha National Park is Mount Meru. It is the fifth-highest mountain in Africa and second-highest in Tanzania. With an height of 4,566 meters, it is visible from most of the park area and even from the town of Arusha.
It is often used a trekking destination by tourists before climbing Kilimanjaro to gain experience and get properly acclimatized. With low altitude and mesmerizing all round views from the top, the climb is often rewarding for most trekkers.
Momela Lakes is a collection of seven distinct lakes all of which are alkaline and shallow. The seven lakes are big Momela, small Momela, El Kekhotoito, Kusare, Rishateni, Lekandiro and Tulusia, and all the seven lakes are fed by different water sources. Due to difference in algae and mineral content, all the seven lakes are different in colour.
The alkaline nature of these lakes does not attract wildlife as it is not drinkable, but is a hub for birds. The lakes are home to many of the 400 bird species that inhabit Arusha. On any given day on a game drive, you’ll be able to spot.
The 3.6 km wide crater is a volcanic crater which is surrounded by forests and shaped like a basin with very steep walls. From the rim, it is 400 meters deep and accommodates a variety of wildlife and plant life. Due to these features, it is often compared to the Ngorongoro Crater and referred to as “Mini Ngorongoro”. The crater rim is perfect for picnic and walking tours.
Even though the game viewing is not on par with that offered by Serengeti or Ngorongoro, the wildlife nevertheless is substantial to make it worthy of a visit. The small size of the park will compensate for the lesser animal concentration which will make the park feel even more densely packed. The savannah, forest ranges, and the mountain form an ideal habitat for the animals to live and prosper. On any normal game drive, you can expect to see animals like giraffe, cape buffalo, zebra, warthog, colobus monkey, and predators like cheetahs, leopards, and lions. Moreover, close to 400 bird species are recorded in Arusha which is quite an impressive count, making the park an excellent birding destination.
Inside of the park, there are a number of lodges and tented camps present to accommodate the tourists. We work closely with a few of them and can avail discounts or a lower charge on your behalf to make your stay in this splendid park even more special.
Common animals: Zebras, Giraffe, Buffalos
Ocassional animals: Hippopotamus
Best Time to Visit
Wildlife viewing in Arusha National Park is good throughout the year but is at its best in the Dry season, from late June to October. The beautiful scenery is most impressive in the Wet season, from November to May, although March and April can be very wet and grey. The clear skies from December through February give you the best views of Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro.
How To Go
Arusha NP is only a 45-minute drive away from the town of Arusha. In fact, some of the town’s accommodations lie on the road to the National Park. Since Arusha is the starting point of any safari in northern Tanzania, it is easy to include a visit to this little park. There are several ways to get to Arusha. The easiest is to get a direct flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), 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 (KIA).
Less obvious, but often cheaper, is to fly to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), just outside of Nairobi in Kenya, and take a shuttle bus to Arusha. In most cases, your tour operator will pick you up from the airports around Arusha and take care of further transportation.
Depending on your time of arrival and departure, you might be able to fit in a half-day visit at the beginning or the end of your safari in northern Tanzania or, time permitting, you can schedule a full day.
Health & Safety
Like most game reserves and parks in Tanzania, Arusha National Park is very safe in our opinion. Most of the people you’ll come across are fellow tourists or staff working for the park, camps or tour operators.