Overview of Arusha National Park
The Ngurdoto Crater, Momela Lakes, the highland montane forest, and the rugged Mount Meru (4575 m above sea level) is the park’s four distinctive features.
Mt. Kilimanjaro, towering at 5895 m to the east, can be visible on clear days from many locations in the park. One of the park’s unique attractions is the opportunity to combine game drives and a nature walk in the many places where visitors can leave their safari vehicles and walk in the fresh air.
The most common animals found in this park are the Abyssinian black and white colobus monkeys, the Vervet monkeys, the red forest duikers, hippos, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, bushbucks, and sometimes the leopard.
More than 400 species of birds have been recorded in the park, including Eurasian migrants, which can be seen between October and April. Mount Meru 4575 m can be scaled in three to four days, with overnight accommodation in alpine huts on your way up and down.
Best Time to Visit Arusha National Park
Due to its altitude (1300m), Arusha enjoys a temperate climate almost all year round. You can enjoy wildlife viewing year-round in Arusha National Park and surrounding regions. Still, the dry season from June to October is the best time when animals are easier to see as they congregate at rivers and waterholes.
November to February provides good safari conditions. The wettest months are March, April, and May, although the rains do bring the benefit of greenery, which makes the landscape photogenic.
June to October
- This is the dry season, considered the best time for wildlife viewing.
- There is less vegetation, so animals are easier to spot.
- Water is scarce, so wildlife gathers at known sources.
- There are fewer mosquitos in the drier months.
- Early mornings and evenings can be chilly.
November to May
- Beautiful, lush scenery makes a great backdrop for photos.
- Migratory birds make for excellent bird watching.
- April and May are generally the quietest months in terms of visitors.
- The rains peak from March to May
- Due to rain, the driving conditions may become difficult on some roads.
How to Get to Arusha National Park
Arusha NP is only a 45-minute drive away from the town of Arusha, the starting point of any safari in northern Tanzania.
There are several ways to get to Arusha. The easiest is to get a direct flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), situated about 46km/29mi from Arusha.
Alternatively, you can fly to Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR), near Dar es Salaam and get a connecting domestic flight to Arusha Airport (ARK) or Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
Your tour operator will pick you up from the airport and take care of further transportation in most cases.
Tour operators usually book charter flights as part of the tour package. Domestic flights to Arusha or Kilimanjaro can be booked with various local carriers:
- Air Tanzania
- Precision Air
- Regional Air
- Safari Air Link
- Coastal Aviation
- Air Excel
Things to do in Arusha National Park
Game drives, canoeing, walking safaris (through different vegetation and habitats), Mt Meru climb (good acclimatization for Kilimanjaro), numerous viewpoints, and some picnic sites.
Wildlife in Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park’s forest is home to species not often encountered in other parks in northern Tanzania, including a blue monkey and black-and-white colobus.
If you are lucky, you might also spot a shy red duiker. More common is the even smaller Kirk’s dik-dik. Giraffe is very common in the area around the Momella lakes.
The Dry season from June to October is the best time for wildlife viewing. Wildlife is easier to spot because the vegetation is thinner, and animals gather around predictable water sources.
At the peak of the Wet season (March to April), some of the roads might become difficult to navigate, which can interfere with your wildlife viewing experience.
Safety in Arusha National Park
Like most parks and reserves in Tanzania, Arusha National Park is very safe. Most visitors to the park stay in Arusha town, and normal safety precautions should be taken when walking around urban areas.
Get advice from your hotel before heading out, never carry unnecessary valuables, and don’t walk around after dark; rather, take a taxi. For more information, see ‘Cities & Urban Areas: Safety Precautions’ below. When following these precautions, it is doubtful that you will run into any issues.
Wildlife viewing is very safe as long as you follow your guide’s directions. If you’re on a self-drive safari, you should make yourself familiar with the rules of the park and never get out of the vehicle except in designated areas.
The climate at Arusha National Parks
Arusha National Park’s climate is normally pleasant and mild. It is usually cool to cold at night and in the early morning, and it rarely gets hot during the day. It is important to pack warm clothing for use in the evenings and game drives in the early morning.
The Dry season is from June to September, and there are two Wet seasons: the ‘long rains’ (March to May) and the ‘short rains’ (November to December). The rainy season consists of afternoon thundershowers, but it would be rare for it to rain all day. Arusha NP incorporates Mount Meru and the area at the mountain base and tends to get slightly more rain and clouds.
The months from January to March following and preceding the periods of rains tend to be less rainy months, although some showers may occur from mid-March.
The sunny hours are at their annual maximum, as well as the temperatures.
April and May coincide with the season of heavy rains; higher is the risk of heavy downpours, especially in April; when it does not rain, the sky is clear, and the temperatures remain high.
June, July, and August are the driest months, and the temperature records are the lowest of the year; often in the morning and the evening, haze and clouds are covering the summit of the Meru Mount, but during the day, the clouds thin out, and the sun warms the air.
In September and October, it is not raining, and the sky is clear, and the temperatures begin to rise.
November and December match with the small rainy season, the sky is still clear, and the rains have lower intensity than in the heavy rains season.
The best time to travel to the Arusha National Park depends on the task you want to perform:
- from June to February for climbing the Meru Mount
- from December to February for the best views of the Kilimanjaro
- from June to October for the observation of animals
- from October to April for birdwatching
Arusha National Park Entry Fee
- Entrance/Conservation fees: US$45 per person per day (foreigners)
- Hut fees: US$30 per person per night (foreigners)
- Guide fees: US$15-20 per person (possibly per day, foreigners)
- Rescue fee: US$20 per person (foreigners)
Thus a three-day, the two-night climb will cost a minimum of US$260 for foreigners. However, because of the new/more strictly enforced regulations, other fees may also be added depending on the tour operator you organize through and may include porter, cook, and meals. These additions will likely add at least another US$100, and probably more. As always, be prepared to negotiate and shop around.
Accommodation in Arusha National Park
The best hotels in Arusha National Park include Mount Meru Hotel, Hatari lodge. Rivertrees Country Inn, Hotel in Usa River, Tulia Boutique Hotel & Spa, Hotel in Arusha, Green Mountain Hotel, Hotel in Arusha, The Charity Hotel International. Hotel in Arusha, Boulevard Inn Mt Meru. Mrimba Palm Hotel