Arusha National Park is a big game highland rain forest which surrounds Africa’s 5th highest mountain, Mt. Meru. Like Nairobi National Park it is remarkable for being so close to a metropolitan area, although unlike Nairobi National Park it isn’t adjacent the urban center. The park is located up the slopes of Mt. Meru adjacent the city’s suburbs.
This is one of the most beautiful national parks in East Africa. The entire ecosystem is alpine and forest with draping moss and flowering lianas, and this provides habitat for a remarkable amount of big game. Locals refer to it as “Giraffic Park” because it has so many giraffe. You can also expect to see waterbuck, zebra and a variety of gazelle and duikers, with good chances for buffalo as well.
The prize of the park is the rare colobus monkey. This is Africa’s most elegant monkey. Large and shy, it’s often seen leaping from the treetops, its gorgeous white tail trailing it like a jet stream. Its guttural hooping is the call of the forest. And the forests have some of the most magnificent birds in Africa, ranging from the gargantuan hornbills to the spectacularly colored, luminescent sun birds.
One of the higher areas which can still be reached by safari tracks is the Momela Lakes. This is a serious of beautiful crater lakes, several of them quite deep. This shallower lakes attract large numbers of water and shore birds, and at certain times, they are filled with flamingoes.
Mt. Meru, which is inside the national park, is a favorite alpine hike and mini-summit ascent. At 13,650′ it can be climbed in 3 days. There are many variations of the full climb, including very interesting short hikes of only a few hours. Several go to attractive waterfalls, one descends into the magnificent Ngurdoto Crater, while probably the most popular short hike is to the ash cone of the old volcano.