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Female giraffe with Mount Meru in the background.
  Arusha NP
Size: 137 km2/53 sq mi.
Best time to visit: You may visit all year round. Avoid April and May, which are usually rainy.
Wildlife & attractions: Red duiker, black and white colobus, bushbuck, birds. Mount Meru.
Getting there: The park is situated a 30–60 minute (depending on traffic) drive east of Arusha. The first half is on good tarmac, while the second half is on poor dirt road. The dirt roads inside the park are fair.
Arusha NP map
Arusha NP map.
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Tanzania map.
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Arusha National Park
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Safari glossary
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Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park is situated just east of Arusha in northern Tanzania. Most safaris on the classic northern safari circuit of Tanzania, including prime parks such as Serengeti and Ngorongoro, start from Arusha.

Relatively few safari-goers visit Arusha National Park. The main reason for this may be that the park doesn't offer as good wildlife as the other parks of the region. Cats, for example, are rarely observed, and you can't see the Big Five – there are no rhinos or lions.

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There are large mammals, though, including elephants and giraffes, and the park has much natural beauty.

Arusha National Park has three main areas, each one offering its special kind of nature. The Ngurdoto Crater is the remains of a now extinct volcano, and has crater sides covered in dense forest. The Momela Lakes are a mix of soda lakes and freshwater lakes, set in mainly open bushland. Finally, Mount Meru, the sixth highest mountain (4,566 m/14,980 ft) in Africa, covers the western half of the park, and offers a nature changing with altitude, from mountain forest to montane desert. A number of observation points and picnic sites are found throughout the park.

Baboon in the forests around the Ngurdoto Crater.

The bird life is very good, and if you are a keen bird watcher going on safari, you may consider adding a day in Arusha National Park to your itinerary. The best birding can be expected between October and April, when many migrants are present or passing. More than 400 bird species have been observed. Out of these, Hartlaub's turaco and narina trogon are often mentioned in park descriptions. Spotting these takes some work, but they can be seen. We have also seen fine species such as crowned eagle, lanner falcon and Levaillant's cuckoo.

Other birds present are ostrich, crowned crane, yellow-billed stork, saddle-billed stork, African spoonbill, greater and lesser flamingo, black-headed heron, cattle egret, sacred ibis, Egyptian goose, spur-winged goose, black stilt, red-billed teal, Cape teal, African jacana, pied avocet, African fish eagle, augur buzzard, red-billed oxpecker, black-and-white cuckoo, bronze sunbird, grey-headed bush-shrike, white-fronted bee-eater, African paradise-flycatcher and white-browed coucal.

The Ngurdoto Crater
The Ngurdoto Crater is a wide but fairly shallow crater, with a floor covered by grass- and wetlands, where for example buffalos may be seen. You can't visit the floor, but may watch the wildlife and the scenery from observation points set along the crater rim. The northern rim has the best views. From there, you can see not only the crater and large areas of the park, but also Kilimanjaro if the weather is clear.

The road to the rim climbs the outer crater walls, which are covered in high forest. This is a good place to look for the black and white colobus monkey. Arusha National Park is known for it's fine population of these monkeys, and you may spot them in the trees; they are close to never seen on the ground.

Also the blue monkeys are usually seen in the trees, although not as high, while baboons often prefer the ground. These monkeys can also be seen in the forest. With some luck, you may also catch a glimpse of the red duiker, a rare and shy forest antelope. It's also a good environment for birds such as silvery-cheeked hornbills, bee-eaters and turacos.

View of the Ngurdoto Crater.

The Momela Lakes
The Momela Lakes is a cluster of freshwater and soda lakes in the north-eastern part of Arusha National Park. Many water birds can be seen here, for example flamingos, African fish eagle, African jacana and Egyptian goose. There are also hippos, waterbucks and dikdiks. The bushbucks of Arusha National Park seem to be less shy than those of other parks, and are often seen in the open on the western side of the lakes. This may be the only place in northern Tanzania where you can be quite sure to see bushbucks, and to see them well enough for bringing some decent pictures home.

The land around the Momela Lakes is mainly open, offering views of Mount Meru and, in clear weather, Kilimanjaro.

Mount Meru
The western half (closest to Arusha Town) of Arusha National Park is dominated by Mount Meru, a 4,566 m/14,980 ft high volcano that had its most recent eruption in 1910. You can drive fairly high up on the mountainside, and from there do a one-hour walk to the main crater, from where a 1,000 m/3,300 ft wall rises. Lammergeiers (a kind of vultures) may be found here. To walk the park, you need to hire a ranger to escort you. This can be arranged from the park headquarters at Momela Gate.

The mountain forest is home to elephants, African buffalos and bushbucks. The birds you may spot include red-fronted parrot, Hartlaub's turaco, bar-tailed trogon and narina trogon.

Climbing the mountain
Like Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru may be climbed. A slow and safe climb may include two nights of camping on the mountain. Mount Meru has by far fewer climbers than Kilimanjaro, so you may not see many other climbers around, if any at all. Even though the mountain is lower than Kilimanjaro, it has a steeper peak.

Female hippo with a calf by the Momela Lakes.

Lodges, camps and hotels

Arusha National Park is close to Arusha, so you may stay in lodges around the park or in town. There are also camping sites and mountain huts inside the park.

Impala Hotel.Impala Hotel is just outside the city centre of Arusha. It has three restaurants (try the Indian restaurant, which is very good), bar, swimming pool, exchange bureau, Internet café, gem shops (where for example tanzanites are sold) and gift shop.

More about Impala Hotel

Web site:

Mount Meru Hotel.Mount Meru Hotel is a tourist class hotel just outside the city centre of Arusha. There are 168 rooms, restaurant, bar, swimming pool and a fairly large hotel garden. The hotel is the Arusha terminal for the shuttle buses to and from Nairobi in Kenya.

More about Mount Meru Hotel

Mount Meru Game Sanctuary.Mount Meru Game Sanctuary is a few km/mi south of Arusha National Park, off the main road between Arusha and Moshi. The lodge offers good standard, and has a restaurant, a gift shop and a pretty garden. The lodge has a zoo for orphaned animals.

More about Mount Meru Game Sanctuary

Web site:

Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge.Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge is a very good hotel in a quiet countryside area some 20 km/12 mi east of Arusha. The hotel has good rooms, restaurant, bar, swimming pool and a 9-hole golf course with views of Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. It's a 30-minute drive from Kilimanjaro International Airport.

More about Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge

Web site:

Arusha Coffee Lodge.Arusha Coffee Lodge is a luxury lodge just west of Arusha, set in a coffee plantation along the main road towards the main safari areas (including Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro and Serengeti) and Arusha Airport. The lodge has rooms in 18 plantation houses, which have been renovated to very good standard and style.

More about Arusha Coffee Lodge

Web site:

Mountain forest view from Karama Lodge.Karama Lodge is situated in Suye Hill just outside Arusha, in a quiet forested area. The rooms are in bungalows on the hillside, and have mosquito nets, private bathrooms and views of Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro.

More about Karama Lodge

Web site:

KIA Lodge.KIA Lodge is a fairly new lodge next to Kilimanjaro International Airport, a 45-minute drive from Arusha. The lodge offers good standard. There are 40 rooms, restaurant, bar and swimming pool overlooking Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. The lodge works fine for stays after arriving late to the airport or before departing early. The airport isn't very busy, so the noise doesn't really bother much.

More about KIA Lodge

Web site:

Serena Mountain Village.Serena Mountain Village is a good lodge some 10 km/6 mi east of Arusha, off the main road between Arusha and Moshi. It has some 40 rooms in bungalows, and restaurant, lounge, library, business centre and reception in a main building resembling a country manor house. The lodge has a pretty garden, bordering a lake. An airstrip is nearby.

Web site:

Arusha Safari Lodge.Arusha Safari Lodge is situated in volcanic hills some kilometres/miles outside of Arusha, offering views of Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro. The lodge is a former private residence, and has seven guest cottages with ensuite bathrooms. The lodge has dining room, swimming pool, gym, tennis court and Internet.

Web site:

Moivaro Lodge.Moivaro Lodge is 7 km/4 mi east of Arusha and offers tourist class accommodation. It has 40 garden bungalows with ensuite bathroom, private veranda, mini bar and television. The lodge has a swimming pool, playground for children, conference and business facilities, and Internet.

Web site:

Olasiti Lodge. Olasiti Lodge has 16 rooms and is set some 7 km/4 mi from central Arusha. The rooms have ensuite bathrooms and face the lodge garden. There is a restaurant, a swimming pool, Internet and a gift shop.

Web site:

Outpost Lodge.Outpost Lodge is a basic guesthouse in a quiet area just outside Arusha's city centre. There is a restaurant, bar and swimming pool. Barclay's Bank, which has an ATM/cash machine accepting Visa and MasterCard, is on the same street as the lodge.

Web site:

Pamoja Expeditions Lodge.Pamoja Expeditions Lodge is a guesthouse/lodge in Arusha, in the same road as Outpost Lodge, i.e. not very far from the city centre of Arusha. It offers basic accommodation, meals, and has a bar, a garden swimming pool, Internet and laundry service.

Web site:

Victoria House.Victoria House is another guesthouse in Arusha, but further away from the city centre than Outpost Lodge and Pamoja Expeditions Lodge.

The Arusha Hotel (formerly New Arusha Hotel) is a good hotel close to the city centre of Arusha. It has a long history, but was recently renovated. There are 86 rooms, including a handful of suites, which have ensuite bathrooms, satellite television, electronic safe, air conditioning, mini bar and wireless Internet. There are restaurants and bars, conference facilities, heated garden swimming pool, souvenir shop, business centre and a casino.

Web site:

Kibo Palace Hotel is a good town hotel in Arusha, a short drive or 15-minute walk from the city centre. It has 65 rooms, including suites. All have bathrooms with shower or Jacuzzi, satellite television, air conditioning, mini bar, safe and wireless Internet. The hotel has restaurant and bar, swimming pool, conference facilities, massage, steam room and gym. There is also a gemstone boutique.

Web site:

Arusha Crown Hotel is a modern tourist class town hotel in Arusha Town. It has 38 rooms with bathroom, satellite television and phone. The hotel has restaurant and a café, conference facilities and a business centre.

Web site:

Jacaranda Hotel is a basic hotel not too far from Arusha's city centre. It has 20+ rooms, restaurant and a garden.

Web site:

Ilboru Safari Lodge is a hotel 2 km/1.5 mi north of Arusha's city centre, offering standard in between basic and tourist class. It has 30 rooms in 2-room bungalows. The hotel has a garden with a swimming pool.

Web site:

Arusha Backpackers Hotel is a new budget hotel in Arusha Town, close to the city centre. It has some 30 rooms and two four-bed dormitories, rooftop restaurant and bar, and Internet.

Web site:

Catholic Hostel on Kanisa Rd offers inexpensive (approximately USD 10 for B&B) and very basic accommodation not too far from Arusha's city centre. No frills.

Dik Dik Hotel is a good lodge east of Arusha, off the main road between Arusha and Moshi. It has some 20 rooms, restaurant, swimming pool and gift shop.

Web site:

Momella Wildlife Lodge is just outside the northern border of Arusha National Park, offering views of the park and of Kilimanjaro. There are 55 rooms in bungalows, swimming pool, restaurant and bar. The movie Hatari, starring John Wayne, was produced here in the 1960's.

Kigongoni Lodge lies on a hill on a coffee farm east of Arusha Town, offering views of Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro. The rooms are in 18 spacious cottages, all with private bathroom with shower and bathtub, and a private veranda with a view. There is a restaurant and a lounge, and a garden swimming pool. The lodge has good tourist standard.

Web site:

Onsea House is a farmhouse hotel just east of Arusha and offers rooms for up to six people, including self-contained cottages. The hotel has restaurant with ambitious kitchen, bar, a large garden with a swimming pool, and quiet surroundings.

Web site:

Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge is an early colonial farmhouse on the lower slopes of Mount Meru east of Arusha Town. It has ten rooms with influences from colonial and coastal Swahili style, views of Kilimanjaro and a large garden where typical forest animals of the area can be seen, including colobus monkeys and large hornbills. The lodge has a private lake that offers boating and trout fishing. There is also for example good birding, yoga and meditation classes, swimming pool and outings in the area.

Web site:

Hatari Lodge is situated just outside northern Arusha National Park. It has nine rooms decorated in a modern retro style, all with open fireplaces and spacious bathrooms. There is a library, a lounge area and bar with veranda and viewing deck.

Web site:

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Page updated 27 April 2013