Arusha National Park
Don’t be fooled by the fact that the Arusha National Park is small (552 km2). Within its borders, it has a diverse range of topography and wonderful wildlife. From the rugged peaks of Mount Meru to the marshy depths of the Ngurdoto Crater where warthog wallow, to the monkey-filled montane forest and rolling grassy hills on which giraffe and zebra graze, there’s plenty to see here.
While the Arusha National Park doesn’t have The Big Five (in fact, the only one of them it has, is buffalo), it offers visitors spectacular scenery and sightings of a wide range of animals including monkeys, giraffe, zebra, and the sweetest antelopes on earth – dikdiks. Add to that commanding views of Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro (if it’s a clear day) and it’s the perfect place to start your African safari.
In its many forested areas, it may be more difficult to spot wildlife, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled!
Arusha National Park includes Tanzania’s second-highest mountain, Mount Meru, with its rugged peaks and wooded foothills. Buffalo and giraffe can be seen here and, if you’re very lucky, the elusive leopard.
The main gate to the park opens into the magical montane rain forest. This emerald area is a playground to a wide range of monkeys that you may not see anywhere else, including the black-and-white colobus and blue monkey. Look out, too, in the shadows beneath the trees for tiny duikers and dik-diks.
An old volcano in the east of the park, Ngurdoto Crater stretches 3 km across and has steep sides and grassland and marsh in its ‘bowl’. There are a number of great viewpoints around its rim where you can stop to see the warthog and buffalo grazing (and wallowing) below.
Seven alkaline lakes are found in the northeast of the park, each a different, brilliant color, due to the algae that grow in them. Many water birds live here including, depending on the time of year, flocks of flamboyantly-pink flamingos.
Arusha National Park is an easy 40-minute drive from Arusha (25 km to the main gate), and about a half hour from Kilimanjaro International Airport (35 km to the main gate). Due to the small size of the park, all three main areas can be seen in a half-day trip, but a full day with a picnic lunch and the guided walk is a far more relaxed way to do it!