Arusha National Park is located in the northern part of Tanzania not too far south from the border of Kenya and just outside the city of Arusha. The national park encompasses an area of 53 square miles (137 sq km) making it one of the smaller national parks of both Tanzania and the continent of Africa.
Some people consider this a sister park to Kilimanjaro which is just east of Arusha National Park. It is common for visitors to visit both parks, particularly those who have an affinity for mountains.
Mount Meru is the second tallest mountain in Tanzania after Mount Kilimanjaro. Meru reaches a peak of 14,968 feet (4,562 m), which is actually quite a bit shorter than Kilimanjaro. On clear days you can see either mountain from the other. Mount Meru is a dormant stratovolcano and it is the fifth tallest mountain in Africa.
Although the park is small for national park standards, it is diverse with facets of nature. There are three unique areas in the park. The Meru Crater is located in the western part of the park and it provides runoff into the Jekukumia River. The summit is located atop the rim of the crater.
Ngurdoto Crater is located in the southeastern part of the park which features a rich grassland ecosystem. The northeastern part of the park gives way to the Momella Lakes which is a haven for birds who come to take advantage of the growing algae in the lakes.
The surrounding forest at the base of the mountain is home to varied wildlife and an abundance of birds. There are around 400 species of birds which makes this park a birdwatcher’s paradise.
Other wildlife includes black and white colobus monkey, buffalo, bushbuck, elephant, warthog, and zebra. The elusive leopard is present but hard to find.
Mount Meru is the second tallest mountain in Tanzania and 5th tallest in Africa. It serves as the pinnacle attraction and highlight of the park. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate getting to experience the different ecosystems that are found within this small park.
The majority of people visiting Arusha are there to trek up the mountain. This is an opportunity to engage the mountain, varied nature elements, and views of the wilderness below the mountain summit.
Trails of Arusha National Park
Climbing Mount Meru is one of the leading attractions and draws to the park. The Momella route starts at the gate located on the eastern side of the mountain. This is the route used to climb the mountain.
The best time to climb occurs between June and February with December through February offering the best chances to see Mount Kilimanjaro uncovered from the clouds. The Momella route routinely takes 4 days traveling a distance of 11.8 miles (19 km), however, there is a shorter more direct ascent that takes 3 days and travels a distance of 8.7 miles (14 km).
The longer route is more common allowing for better acclimatization and a little less strenuous. You will travel through montane forest, moorland, and then alpine desert before returning back down.
- Views of Mount Kilimanjaro
- Second tallest mountain in Tanzania
- Kilimanjaro Trek Guide, Climb Mount Meru – Kilimanjaro’s Little Brother, https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/climb-mount-meru/, retrieved December 2019.
- Lonely Planet, Arusha National Park, https://www.lonelyplanet.com/tanzania/northern-tanzania/arusha-national-park , retrieved December 2019.
- Shadows of Africa, Everything You Need to Know About Arusha National Park, https://www.shadowsofafrica.com/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-arusha-national-park/, retrieved December 2019.
- Tanzania Experience, Arusha National Park, https://www.tanzania-experience.com/destinations/arusha-national-park/, retrieved December 2019.
- Tanzania Tourist Board, Arusha National Park, https://www.tanzaniatourism.go.tz/en/destination/arusha-national-park, retrieved December 2019.