​Expert Reviews – Arusha NP

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Expert
Mary Fitzpatrick   –  
United States US
Visited: Multiple times

Mary is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including South Africa, Tanzania, East Africa and Africa.

5 people found this review helpful.

Tiny, Green Gem in Mt Meru's Shadow
Overall rating
3/5

This lovely little park has stunning scenery that is very different and considerably more lush than that of its northern neighbours. Glimpses of both Mt Meru (which is part of the park) and Mt Kilimanjaro are possible on clear days. The wildlife watching is satisfying, with sightings of elephants, zebras, giraffes and dik-diks common. However, it cannot be compared with that in the other northern parks, and there are neither lions nor rhinos in Arusha park.

For me, a favourite attraction is the black-and-white colobus monkey, which is frequently spotted here. Another highlight: the small Momella Lakes, which attract flamingoes and other water birds. If you're arriving at Kilimanjaro International Airport and have a few extra days at your disposal, I recommend Arusha park as a convenient and enjoyable stop for a night or two before heading further afield for your main safari. There is a good range of accommodation in and around Usa River, the park access village.

Expert
Brian Jackman   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: Multiple times

Brian is an award winning travel writer, author of safari books and regular contributor to magazines such as BBC Wildlife and Travel Africa.

3 people found this review helpful.

Mountain lakes and Forest Glades
Overall rating
3/5

Small it may be, but this gem of a park on Arusha’s doorstep contains Mount Meru (4,565 metres), Tanzania’s second highest mountain after Kilimanjaro. High in the forests are the Momella Lakes, whose sheltered waters attract flamingos and huge flocks of migrating waterfowl. The scenery is stunning – especially looking down from the rim of Ngurdoto – a miniature Ngorongoro with a crater floor measuring three kms across. This is not a Big Five destination although elephant, buffalo and leopard are present; but a day spent exploring its 50 km of forest trails offers a tantalising glimpse of a different world to the plains below, with its own special birds and animals. On my last visit I saw long-crested eagles and a narina’s trogon, watched red forest duikers slipping through the trees and listened to the eerie calls of black-and-white colobus monkeys echoing in the forest glades.

Expert
Christopher Clark   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: March

Christopher is a British travel writer and has contributed to various Fodor's guidebooks and a range of travel magazines.

2 people found this review helpful.

Accessible and under-rated park watched over by Mt Meru
Overall rating
3/5

The small Arusha National Park certainly can’t boast the big game of Tanzania’s flagship parks, but it’s got more going for it than you might think. First, it’s an easy day trip destination just a short drive from the town of Arusha, which also makes it a good bet for Kili climbers who might not have time to fit a proper safari into their itinerary before flying home again. You’ll most likely see zebra, buffalo, giraffe and various antelope. Leopard and elephant are also found but are certainly not common sightings. Arusha is also one of the few parks in Tanzania where the black-and-white colobus monkey is regularly seen.

The scenery here is stunning, with the imposing Mount Meru, the second highest mountain in Tanzania after Kilimanjaro, presiding regally over the park in the background. There are great views across the dense woodlands and lakes from some of the park’s higher points, and when the skies are clear (particularly early in the morning and at dusk) there are also good views of Kilimanjaro itself. Walking safaris and canoeing trips are both available and good ways to get a little more intimate with the interesting surrounds.

Expert
Ariadne van Zandbergen   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

1 person found this review helpful.

Momella Lakes, Painted Pink by Flocks of Flamingo, at the Base of Mt Meru
Overall rating
3/5

Although very accessible, this small park next to Arusha town is not on many safari itineraries. With Mt Meru as a backdrop and the Momella Lakes as its main feature, the park boasts great scenic beauty, but it lacks the Big Five animals many come to see on safari. The park is, however, close enough to Arusha, the gateway to the Northern safari circuit, that you could spend your first night here, instead of in Arusha town. What a way to start a safari!

The game-drive track around the lakes usually offers good views of flocks of flamingo, but the best way to explore the area is by canoe. Giraffe and buffalo are very common and, if you’re lucky, you might see elephants too. There are no lions in the park, but I’ve seen leopard, serval and wild cat. Along the forested road, climbing up to the rim of Ngurdoto Crater, I’ve had many great sightings of beautiful black-and-white colobus monkeys, which you’ll battle to see elsewhere on safari in Tanzania. Another personal favorite and special for the park is the delightful Kirk’s dik-dik with its twitchy nose.

Wildlife viewing aside, you might want to visit Arusha National Park to climb Mt Meru, Africa’s fifth-highest mountain. On out most recent visit we got a taste of this epic mountain climb as we tackled the full-day guided hike through pristine forest to the Kitoto viewpoint (2,500m/8,200ft), overlooking the spectacular semi-collapsed caldera.

Expert
Anthony Ham   –  
Australia AU
Visited: Multiple times

Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.

Arusha’s backyard
Overall rating
3/5

With so much attention focused on the climb up Kilimanjaro, many travellers forget that Mount Meru (4566m), Tanzania’s second-highest mountain, is the shapelier of the two mountains. And despite its proximity to Arusha, the quiet four-day trails make it less of a scene – it’s on very few visitors’ bucket lists, but that’s only because very few people know about it. This is the quintessential African volcano climb, an opportunity to experience the extraordinary beauty of the Rift Valley rim and its montane forests and fine views, yet it lacks the sometimes-daunting large-scale expedition requirements of Kili just up the road. It’s also less than an hour’s drive from Arusha.

The combination of lakes and altitude ensures that birders will love the opportunity to see flamingos and raptors with some fabulous finds in between. And wildlife is a bonus here, rather than the main event – watch for zebra, giraffe, klipspringer and buffalo, and even elephant, leopard, red duiker and colobus.

Expert
Lizzie Williams   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: October

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

A scenic park with a range of interesting habitats in the shadow of Mount Meru
Overall rating
3/5

The drive to Arusha National Park was through cultivated coffee bushes, but the landscape abruptly changed to shadowy dense montane forest at the park’s Ngurdoto Gate. (It’s always good to see a large tract of trees, given that most of Tanzania’s hardwood forests have been decimated for firewood). I was delighted to see acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkey, and from the rim of the spectacular Ngurdoto Crater, I could make out buffalo and warthog on the wide marshy floor. Further north, the forest thinned out to grassy hills where I saw giraffe and zebra and a fine view of Mount Meru, and the Momella lakes were lovely, each one a different hue of green or blue. Unless you want to hike on Meru, this is an easy day tip from Arusha, though there aren’t the large numbers of game as the other parks in the Northern Circuit.

Expert
Kim Wildman   –  
Australia AU
Visited: November

Kim is a travel writer who authored and updated over 15 guidebooks, including Lonely Planet's South Africa and Bradt's Tanzania guides.

Dancing flaming pink flamingos
Overall rating
3/5

One of Tanzania’s smallest parks, Arusha National Park is often overlooked by most
safari tourists. Not without reason, as it sadly lacks the big game drawcards of its northern park
neighbours which for me is usually a priority. Having said that, the park is one of the few places
in Tanzania where the black-and-white colobus monkey is easily seen. And what the park lacks
in wildlife, it certainly makes up for with spectacular scenery. Situated between the peaks of
Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru and punctuated by the Momella Lakes, it really is a visual feast
for the eyes. The park’s lakes also are home to seasonal flocks of flaming pick flamingos and are
excellent lures for variety of other birdlife, so twitchers will be well-pleased.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.1/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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