Arusha National Park - Tanzania
The Tarangire river in Tarangire National Park seen in
the black and white colobus monkey an ever present
resident of Arusha National Park
Cape Buffalo grazing in Arusha National Park
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 mountane forest inhabited by
inquisitive blue monkeys and colourful 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 a different hue of green or blue.
Their shallows sometimes tinged pink with thousands of
flamingos, the lakes support a rich selection of resident and
migrant waterfowl, and 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
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) distant.
But it is Kilimanjaro’s unassuming cousin, Mount Meru - the
fifth highest in Africa at 4,566 meters (14,990 feet) – that
dominates the park’s horizon. 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 high 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.