The closest national park to Arusha town – northern Tanzania’s safari capital – Arusha National Park is a multi-faceted jewel, often overlooked by safari goers, despite offering the opportunity to explore a beguiling diversity of habitats within a few hours.
The entrance gate leads into shadowy montane forest inhabited by inquisitive blue monkeys and colorful turacos and trogons. It is the only place on the northern safari circuit where the acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkey is easily seen. 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.
Further north, rolling grassy hills enclose the tranquil beauty of the Momela Lakes, each one a different hue of green or blue. Their shallows are sometimes tinged pink with thousands of flamingos. The lakes support a rich selection of resident and migrant waterfowl, whilst shaggy waterbucks display their large lyre-shaped horns on the watery fringes. Giraffes glide across the grassy hills, between grazing zebra herds; while pairs of wide-eyed dik-dik dart into scrubby bush like overgrown hares on spindly legs.
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) away.
Kilimanjaro’s unassuming cousin Mount Meru is the fifth highest in Africa. At 4,566 metres (14,990 feet) she dominates the park’s horizon. It’s peaks and slopes are protected within the national park and offers unparalleled views of its famous neighbour, whilst also providing a rewarding hiking experience all of its own.
Passing first through wooded savannah where buffalos and giraffes are frequently encountered, the ascent up Meru leads into forests aflame with red-hot pokers and dripping with Spanish moss, before reaching high open moarlands, spiked with giant lobelias. Everlasting flowers cling to the alpine desert, as delicately-hoofed klipspringers mark the hike’s progress. Astride the craggy summit, Kilimanjaro stands unveiled, blushing in the sunrise.
About Arusha National Park
Size: 552 sq km 212 sq miles).
Location: Northern Tanzania, northeast of Arusha town.
An easy 40-minute drive from Arusha. Approximately 60 km (35 miles) from Kilimanjaro International Airport. The lakes, forest and Ngurdoto Crater can all be visited in the course of a half-day outing at the beginning or end of an extended northern safari.
NOTE: Mountain Climbing Permits duration time is 12 HOURS.
What to do:
Forest walks, numerous picnic sites;
Three- or four-day Mt Meru climb – good acclimatisation for Kilimanjaro. Some say Meru is more challenging and it certainly is steeper!
There are lodges, rest houses, camp sites, mountain huts inside the park; and more lodges at Usa River outside the park and many hotels and hostels in Arusha town.
ARUSHA WALKING SAFARIS
Monduli Juu is situated 50 Km north west of Arusha on the road to the National Parks of Ngorongoro and Serengeti. The Monduli Mountains together with Monduli town lie on the right hand side if you are heading to these parks. The name ‘Monduli’ originates from a place in Monduli Juu where a wealthy Maasai ancestor called ‘Monduli’ used to live in former German colonial times.
Monduli Juu is a cluster of four small Maasai villages namely Emairete, Enguiki, Eluwai and Mfereji. Emairete consists of a wonderful crater where, in former times, the cattle of only medicine men were supposed to graze. Enguiki village is named after its famous pastures. Eluwai is a village called after the trees where certain small ants have their habitat and that are whistling in the wind. Mfereji is a village down the escarpment, which a long time ago developed from a place where a South African lived, who designed a ditch bringing water down from the Monduli Mountains.
This is what you can experience on this walking tour:
- A climbing trip through the evergreen rain forest to enjoy the trees, birds and other animals of that habitat.
- A herbal medical trip where you can feel and smell different medicinal herbs and visit a traditional Maasai herbs doctor.
- Receive a warm welcome in Naramatu: a small ‘factory’ where Maasai jewellery is made.
- Experience a traditional ‘nyama choma’ (BBQ) with our Maasai warriors in ‘Orpul’ where you can cut the meat yourself.
- Rest at an astonishing vantage point with its panorama view, overlooking the Great Rift Valley, Oldonyo Lengai, and Lake Natron.
- Enjoy the story of the secret cultures and differences between Maasai and Waarusha tribes.