ARUSHA NATIONAL PARK
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 safarigoers, 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 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.
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 metres (14,990 feet) – that dominates the park’s horizon. Its peaks and eastern footslopes protected within the national park, Meru offers unparalleled views of its famous neighbour, while also forming a rewarding hiking destination in its own right.
What to see and do
Arusha National Park offers beautiful landscapes and diverse animal, bird and plant life. This magnificent park is characterised by waterfalls and lakes, steep cliffs and gorges, swamps and waterholes, providing the ideal sanctuary for animals and plants. Guests can enjoy Africa at its best and experienced guides will accompany guests on walking safaris, canoeing trips on the lakes or exciting game drives. Arusha is home to groups of forest elephant, many buffalo, water and bushbucks, duikers and dik diks. Spotted hyenas, leopards and civets are some of the predator inhabitants. A major attraction is the large number in primates; especially the black and white Colobus and the shining Sykes monkeys, which are very likely to be seen on a game drive or a walk in the park. There are no lions in this park, and leopards are present, but not often spotted. These are elusive cats and do not often come out to hunt until dark. Arusha National Park offers more of a peaceful environment with less of the thrill of big game viewing.
Best time to visit
The main rainy season, or the ‘long rains’, lasts during March, April and May. Afternoon downpours are the norm, which are heavier and more predictable beside the coast and on the islands. The humidity is high and daily temperatures reach the low-mid 30s (degrees Celsius).
The long dry season lasts from June to October, during which time the rainfall is unusual. Temperatures vary hugely with altitude and location, but it’s usually a fine, clear sky and sunny weather.
During November and December there’s another rainy season, which is known as the ‘short rains’. These are much lighter than the long rains and less reliable. If it has rained during the short rains, then it normally dries up for a few months in January and February, which is Tanzania’s ‘short dry season’, before starting to rain again in earnest in March.