Today’s post is based on a post from my old website, first published in 2005. I enjoyed visiting Arusha National Park so much that I’ve researched it again and updated the post. I’ve also re-processed the images a bit. Unfortunately the images were quite poorly scanned and the negatives have long since been lost to the ravages of time…
Days: 1 day
People seen: Few
Guidebook: The Rough Guide to Tanzania
Arusha National Park is just 35 kilometres outside of Arusha. Safari companies sometimes visit it as part of the so called Northern Safari Circuit. Enclosed within the park boundary is Mount Meru, a 15,000 ft volcano which is the primary objective of most peoples’ visits. From the town side the mountain looks almost perfectly round, but as you enter the park you realise that the entire eastern side is virtually non-existent, having apparently being destroyed in a huge eruption. The jagged rock face piercing the cloud cover makes for a very nice picture.
There are several reasons to visit Arusha National Park aside from climbing Mount Meru though. The wildlife is varied and although you are unlikely to see lions or other large predators, you will see buffalo, giraffes, zebra, colobus monkeys, and more. Elephant are apparently quite common on the higher slopes of Meru (hiding it seems, from the onslaught of poachers).
Day game drives around the park are easily arranged in Arusha. Arusha National Park itself is quite heavily forested and contains none of the stereotypical African savannah found in many parks. This can make the animals somewhat harder to spot but also makes for more fun when you round a bend and find an old buffalo grazing by the road. Fortunately I also had a very good guide, without whom I would have seen virtually nothing.
However, perhaps the biggest draw is that Arusha National Park is one of the few parks to offer walking safaris. The only other time I have explored an African national park on foot is Hell’s Gate in Kenya. My day trip included a ‘game walk’ which basically involved myself, a ranger, a rifle, and walking very close to a few herds of buffalo. Walking the park is such a different feeling than driving – much more connected. For the large part the animals spotted us but ignored us – content, I would imagine – that they could probably flatten us if they desired!
Overall Arusha National Park offers a great chance to see wildlife close up, within a very short distance of the city. If you are short on time in Tanzania, the park is much more convenient to access than many of the others. And if you have time, you can check out the nearby attractions of Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro.