Arusha National Park (ANAPA) is a gem of varied ecosystems and spectacular views of Mt. Meru, the crater that gives the region its name
Arusha National Par is a popular destination for Tanzania safari day trip visitors who are about to embark from the town of Arusha on longer northern circuit safaris. The small national park in Tanzania 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. 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 colubus monkeys playing in the canopy.
Arusha National Park: Mount Meru Climb
Climbing Mt. Meru or enjoying the smaller trails that criss-cross its lower slopes is a popular activity for visitors to Arusha National Park. The three-day trek to reach the crater’s summit is a quieter, and some say more challenging alternative than the famous peak of nearby Mount Kilimanjaro.
Along the lower slopes, the paths to rivers and waterfalls create a relaxing day hike for visitors who don’t want to attempt the rather arduous climb. Ancient fig tree forests, crystal clear waters cascading from mountain streams, and a chance to spot colobus monkeys are the attractions and pleasures of Arusha National Park.
Arusha National Park Location
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 – 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 having a different hue of green or blue. There are shallows sometimes tinged pink with thousands of flamingos. The lakes support a rich selection of resident and migrant waterfowl, and also shaggy waterbucks that display their large lyre-shaped horns on the watery fringes. Giraffes glide across the grassy hills, between grazing zebra herds, whilst pairs of wide-eyed dik-dik dart into scrubby bush like overgrown hares on spindly legs.
Wildlife in Arusha National Park
Although elephants are uncommon in Arusha National Park, and lions are 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, which is only 50km (30 miles) away.
But it is Kilimanjaro’s unassuming cousin, Mount Meru – the fifth highest mountain in Africa at 4,566 metres (14,990 feet) – that dominates the park’s horizon. With its peaks and eastern foot slopes protected within the national park, Meru offers unparalleled views of its famous neighbor, while also forming a rewarding hiking destination in its own right.
Passing first through wooded savannah where buffalos and giraffes are frequently encountered, the ascent of Meru leads into forests aflame with red-hot pokers and dripping with Spanish moss, before reaching highly open heath 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.
Flora and Fauna of Arusha National Park
Within Arusha National park there are three broad areas to be found: Ngurdoto Crater (surrounded by forest), the Momela Lakes (alkaline) and Mount Meru (lush forest and bare rock). These are all at varying altitudes and as a result have very different vegetation – it is all this that helps to make this such a diverse park to visit.
Almost 400 species of birds have been recorded in Arusha National park. Some of them are migratory and only present between October and April, others are permanent residents. Especially the Momela lakes are a great place for bird watching, which host a large concentration of waterbirds, including flamingos. There is also a variety of raptors, which hide in the forested areas of Mount Meru.
Arusha National park is only 137km², but includes a diverse range of habitats. There are three distinct areas to be found: Ngurdoto Crater, the Momella Lakes and the rugged Mount Meru. Correlated to the altitude and geology of Arusha National Park you can find mountain rainforests, open savannah, alkaline lakes and even a volcanic crater. On clear days you get great views of Mount Meru, which is Africa’s fifth highest mountain and within the parks boundary. You can also see across to Kilimanjaro – which is 50km away.
|Languages spoken||English, Kiswahili|
|Currency used||Tanzania Shillings (TSHS)|
|Area (km2)||137 SQ. KM.|