Arusha National Park is considered to be the perfect springboard for visitors to journey on to bigger game parks. But it also presents many opportunities to the discerning traveller. It’s a 40-minute drive from the city of Arusha, about 60 kilometres from the international airport.
The best way to experience it is on foot. The park has some of the most spectacular scenery you can feast your eyes on. To start with, there’s Mount Meru. At an elevation of 4566m, this volcano is given more beauty by the Jekukumia River as it meanders on its way. The Momella Lakes present in the park are soda-lakes, shallow and alkaline. The algae colours are lovely to look at. If you look to the north, you’ll see the sometimes blue, sometimes green hills that are around the lake. The Ngurdoto Crater is at a depth of 100 meters, its floor is swampy and is surrounded by forests.
While Arusha National Park does lie on the famous northern circuit, it does not attract as many visitors to it. Perhaps the reason lies in the inability to spot the Big 5. That doesn’t mean you won’t find any interesting animals to look at. In fact, the Cape buffalo and the elephant can be seen here. You may even find the leopard, if you’re really lucky.
Many visitors come here hoping to spot the elusive colubus monkey. Giraffes (the largest population in the continent) majestically walk through the landscape, the zebras flick their short tails, and the warthog wallows in the water. Look out too for the blue monkey. In many ways, Arusha is the perfect place to have a quiet safari experience. No battling crowds and dealing with the noise that one finds in the other game parks. No wonder then that many people believe that this is the country’s most accessible national park.
Birds abound, tingeing the water pink, thanks to the many thousands of flamingos here. Some birds have made the Arusha National Park their permanent home. Some, travel long distances to be here. The park has trogons, many different kinds of starlings and turacos.
A popular walking safari trip is to hike up Mount Meru. Many consider this trek to be harder than the more popular one and a perfect practise run for Mt Kilimanjaro. The eastern foot slopes are part of the park and you can plan a trip over three or four days to walk up to the summit.
There is a harmonious blend in the ecosystem that makes for some truly beautiful sights. Montane forests, grasslands and swamps add their own charm to this park. Each ecosystem offers its unique set of flora and fauna.
The jungle roads are leafy and shady, and good for the newcomer and the walking veteran. Make sure that you go with a certified, trusted and experienced organiser for your walking safari adventure. Ensure that the guide is familiar with the landscape, that there is a doctor on call and that meals are provided according to your preference.
Arusha is a tiny jewel in the safari circuit and should not be missed.