In the last quarter of the 19th Century, Count Sámuel Teleki de Szék, a formidable Hungarian explorer renowned for expending Kenya and Tanzania reached the land of Momela, the area which would later become Arusha National Park.
Among many attractions, Arusha national park is home for Meru Mountain which at the height of 4,562 meters is the second-highest peak in the country and is the fifth-highest mountain in Africa.
Today, more than 100,000 visitors coming from different parts of the world visits this small but reach in things to do and see the park. In fact, this is the only park in the country that gives you the opportunity to witness animals like giraffes and buffaloes up close and personal, while having remarkable canoeing.
In this guide, I am going to share everything you need for a lifetime experience at Lake Manyara National park, from when to go to the things to do, I am sharing all you need to plan your Arusha National park with reduced stress.
Nevertheless, I understand that you may be pressed with time, if that is the case with you, there is nothing to worry about. I have the following takeaways for you that’ll give you the full Arusha National park idea in seconds;
Key Takeaways for Arusha National Park.
- History and formation – First reached by Hungarian explorer Count Sámuel Teleki 1880s before being made a National Park in 1960
- Getting to Arusha National park – located in North East of Arusha, the park is the nearest and easily accessed national park in the country. It is only 45 minutes from Arusha city center while it is about 1 ½ hour from Kilimanjaro international airport.
- Plants and animals in Arusha National park – With a prolific birding to more than 500 bird species, Arusha national park is home to; elephant, the black-and-white colobus Cape buffalo, zebra, warthog, monkey, flamingo, bushbuck, giraffe, and the blue monkey among many.
- When it comes to plants, ranging from; Climbers, Epiphytes, Shrubs & treeless, Terrestrial herbs and Trees, Arusha National Park is rich for about 100 plant species.
- Best things to do and see in Arusha National Park – The park has a lot of activities ranging from game drives, walking safaris, canoe safaris, or climb to Mount Meru.
- The best time to visit Manyara – June to October is fantastic months to spot animals while in the wetter months of November to May birding is at its best.
- Arusha National Park tour cost – There is no fixed costs in this park, the cost will depend on several factors like; a number of people in your group as and time of your travel.
- Where to stay in the Arusha National park? – Hatari Lodge, Ambureni coffee lodge, Venus Hotel, Tulia Boutique Hotel & Spa, Kibo Palace Hotel, and African Tulip hotel.
Arusha National park maybe not an ideal place to viewing big cats like the other parks in Northern Tanzania but it still has a lot to offer.
It is believed that leopards exist in the tropical rain forest of the park but due to the thickness nature of the Arusha national park forest, it is difficult to spot them.
When it comes to lions, there is currently no evidence of their existence in the park at the moment since the last recorded lions’ sightings of 1998.
The diversity of habitats like open glade, montane forest, heath and moorland, primary and secondary vegetation, freshwater, alkaline lakes, and swamps all have attracted different types of animals in the park.
If you like the elephant, the black-and-white colobus Cape buffalo, zebra, warthog, monkey, flamingo, bushbuck, giraffe, and the blue monkey then Arusha park is a place to go without forgetting more than 500 bird species recorded to the park until the moment I am having a pen in my hand.
When it comes to flora, the evergreen forest of Arusha National park is home to different species starting from climbers, epiphytes, shrubs and treelets, terrestrial herbs trees, and at least 100 different species of colorful flowers.
Although small parks, Arusha has a lot to offer when it comes to things to do and see. From day tours to multi-day Mount Meru climbing, Arusha National park is worth every activity. Below is activity after another;
One thing I like about this park is its prolific giraffe viewing. In fact, it is believed the park hosts Africa’s largest yet friendly giraffe population.
With other common animals in Arusha national park-like waterbucks, Cape buffalo, elephants, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, turacos, and trogons, this park never disappoints.
Arusha national park is home for more than 350 species. On top of that, the park is a stop for migratory birds who usually passes the park and spend enough time in small Momela lakes hosted in the park.
Hover it isn’t sacred ibis, spur wing goose, large white egrets, grey herons, the Narina trogon and bar-tailed trogons which usually stills the excellent birding show in the park, it is rather flocks of flamingos who like the salty of the alkaline Momela lakes.
There’re really a few places birding can be at its best than in Arusha national park
If there is one thing that separates Arusha national park from the rest it is wildlife viewing at close proximity. It has been said that this is the park with more friendly wild animals. A close view of wildlife while canoeing is the experience that will make you want to return to Africa again and again.
With other animals, you may spot while in the small Momela Lake, Giraffe viewing is spectacular. You may also be lucky to spot buffalo in close range. However, this might not be the case as on most occasions these ‘bush cows’ prefer to graze in the thickets.
The important thing to note here is that the Arusha national park has a whooping seven shallow lakes located within the park. Among them all, a Small Momela is the only one with less salt and it is the one that is usually used for canoeing.
The small attractive lakes are named; Big Momela, Small Momela, El Kekhotoito, Kusare, Rishateni, Lekandiro, and Tulsa
Mount Meru Climbing
If you like, a 4 days climb to the fifth highest peak in Africa but second in the country is another fantastic experience with a true African adventure test.
At 14,968 ft, Mount Meru, famously known as Ol Doinyo Orok (Black Mountain) by Maasai, erupted for the last time over 140 years ago.
With a clear sky, Mount Meru offers one of the handsome views to its neighboring brother in the name of Kilimanjaro Mountain which itself is the highest free-standing mountain on the planet.
Hiking to this volcanic mountain is accompanied by the armed park rangers. This isn’t only an attempt to ensure everything is under control away from park elephant and buffalo, but also the secret leopards of the park as well as undocumented lions who are yet to be seen in the park for the past decade.
Despite the climb to Meru Mountain usually getting treated as the warm-up for a Kilimanjaro Hike but in my opinion, this is nonsense. Mount Meru has earned its own right to be climbed as the experience here is totally unique and far different from the one in Kilimanjaro.
Apart from giving you a unique walking safari, the scenery during the hiking is terrific and that alone makes climbing Meru a highly rewarding experience.
A visit to a little Ngorongoro, Ngurdoto Crater
Just like the famous Ngorongoro crater, the Ngurdoto crater which lies within the park is the home for African buffalo, elephants, birds, monkeys, and baboons which makes a game viewing in the crater a massive trip.
While most of the park is characterized by forest, in the Western side of the crater the vegetation is a bit different with shorter grasses covering the area famously known as Serengeti Ndogo (Small Serengeti) due to its plainness and availability of some ungulates like Zebra and antelopes.
Putting aside the examples of birds and animals found in the park displayed within the Ngurdoto Museum, the history about the park area and its ethnic societies will give you a different touch to your overall experience in the park. You can as well opt to visit the neighboring villages and experience the African life at is a very natural state.
Experience Lake Longil, Tululusia Hill and Fig Tree Arch
Truly, a small park of Arusha isn’t short of to see and do when you consider visiting Lake Longil which is non-alkaline hence attracts some wildlife to drink water there. There is also Tululusia Hill in the park that is also remarkable for giving stunning views to the lower reaches of the park as well as Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro stunning views.
This goes without mentioning Fig Tree Arch which has formidably grown into a huge space where African elephants and even safari cars can pass over. It is one of the unique symbols of the park.
The best time depends on your interest and what is your goal of visiting the park. If you’re a birdlife lover, for example, visiting a park in offseason/wetter months of March to May will give you a fantastic experience of witnessing migrant birds as well as thousands of Flamingos in the park.
On the other hand, wildlife viewing is perfect in the drier months of July to October but birding might not be as prolific as in the wetter months.
Having said so, Arusha National Park is fantastic the whole year and the scenery itself is absolutely perfect regardless to the timing of your visit.
Lake Manyara Safari cost
While at Earthlife expeditions we usually charge about $435 per person starting with two visitors for a day trip, still it’s fair to say that the cost for visiting this park isn’t fixed or uniform.
However, the government fees remain the same but detail like; a number of days in your whole trip, Number of traveling people in your group, Nature of the accommodation, and time of the year will directly impact your Arusha National Park tour.
Just like other different parks in the country, Arusha national park gives you different options when it comes to accommodation. If you like budget accommodation, you’re going to find some. On the other hand, here are our mid-range and luxury accommodation partners in and around the park;