Arusha National Park – Tanzania

by Peter Baxter  

This is the most compact park in the region, and that most closely allied with Kilimanjaro and the heavily cultivated aspect that defines the immediate area. Similar to Kilimanjaro National Park, the defining feature of Arusha National Park is Mount Meru. As a consequence the park offers a variety of landscapes that range from alpine peaks to plains and alkaline/fresh lakes separated by wooded hills and hummocks.

The park comprises only 53 sq miles, but within that area a strong feeling of wilderness prevails. It also has a distinct atmopshre of highlands with altitude ranging from 4900ft to to the 14900ft peak of Mount Meru. During the clear and dry period between December and February the twin views of Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro are clearly defined, contrasting a compact wildlife viewing experience with unexpected aspects of volcanic peaks and snowcaps. Another of the enchanting features of this park is that it is possible thanks to a lack of lions to leave your vehicle and walk for short distances, and for this purpose a number of observation points have been prepared.

If anything detracts from the pleasure of visiting Arusha National Park it is that it can seem canned in places, but bearing in mind that it is situated in a heavily populated region, this is hardly surprising. The park should be viewed less as a park than a conservancy, and should not be visited with any expectations for Serengeti style space and grandeur.

Arusha National Park is an excellent birding destination, and with the exception of lions, all the Big Five are represented. Other species to look out for are the Colobus and Blue Monkeys along the fringes of Mount Meru, and pink flamingoes and many other waterfowls in the wetlands and lakes.

The park is well served with accommodation options, with lodges and tented camps both within and outside the park boundaries.

Alternative activities include climbing Mount Meru and other medium altitude forest walks.


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