Arusha National Park

Size: 325 sq. miles (137 sq. km.) Best Time to Visit: July – March

Arusha National Park is one of the most easily accessible of north-eastern Tanzania. Situated between the peaks of Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro (less than an hour’s drive from Kilimanjaro airport and only 20 minutes from the city of Arusha itself) the park is home to many varieties of smaller game as well as giraffe, elephant, leopard, hippo, colobus monkey, water buffalo, bushbuck, and over 400 species of birdlife.

The views of Mt. Kilimanjaro are breathtaking but it is Mt. Meru that dominates the park. Excursions can be made to Meru’s summit (with an armed ranger because of the animals) and it is a popular “practice” run for those whose destination is the peak of Kilimanjaro. Although not as high as Kilimanjaro, the view from Meru’s peak is spectacular and includes a magnificent crater and eruption cone. The hike itself traverses a variety of landscapes including plains, forest and lava desert. For the less ambitious, Arusha National Park is one of the few parks where a walking safari is possible (also with an armed ranger). Walking safaris can be as short or as long as desired..

The slopes and summit of Meru are only one type of protected habitat in the park, others include the Momela Lakes region and the Ngurdoto Crater, all of which afford spectacular views of the African countryside and wildlife. The lakes are very salty and the animals do not use them for drinking but the high mineral content gives each lake a different colour and each supports a unique array of insect and bird life. The Ngurdoto crater, which measures nearly two miles across, remains undisturbed by humans. The views from the rim are magnificent and a variety of wildlife can be spotted grazing on the crater floor.

For those on safari, one of the unique aspects of the Arusha area is its dense population. It is possible to experience Africa as its modern inhabitants do by visiting one of the local communities that has initiated grassroots tourism. You’ll be charmed by the authentic African meals, songs and the hospitality of Mama Anna as she demonstrates her cheese-making techniques. You may also be able to purchase coffee – and even help roast and grind it using traditional methods! For a small fee, breakfast lunch and/or dinner can be provided.
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Accommodation

Moivaro Coffee Plantation Lodge

Built on a former coffee plantation, the Moivaro Lodge (link) features individual thatched cabins, beautiful gardens and a large colonial style verandah that can’t be beat for relaxing with a cool drink after a long day or breakfasting in anticipation of one. Moivaro has nature trails on the grounds and is optimally located near Arusha and Kilimanjaro airport.

Mountain Village

Similar to Moivaro, although somewhat older, the Mountain Village Lodge offers individual cabins and fantastic views. Nature walks can be arranged and the hotel is located near Arusha town and Kilimanjaro airport.

Novotel Mt. Meru

The Novotel at Mt. Meru is a large, western-style 1960’s hotel just at the edge of Arusha town. The Novotel is a pick-up point for shuttles to and from Nairobi and is slightly more central to the town and airport than the above-mentioned lodges.

Mountain Village

Similar to Moivaro, although somewhat older, the Mountain Village Lodge offers individual cabins and fantastic views. Nature walks can be arranged and the hotel is located near Arusha town and Kilimanjaro airport.

Dik-Dik

Named for the smallest of the African antelope, the dik-dik is a newer hotel, centrally located and features 18 double suites all with modern amenities. Typical east African flora can be viewed throughout the grounds.
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Amboseli National Park

Size: 390 sq. km. Best time to visit: April – May

Amboseli is a popular destination and prime location from which to view and photograph Mt. Kilimanjaro. Directly on the Tanzanian border, the park lies near the road from Arusha to Nairobi. The park’s clean and constant water supply is maintained by melting snow and ice at the peak of Kilimanjaro that filters through hundreds of feet of volcanic rock. The ubiquitous dust is actually volcanic ash that remains from the eruptions of Kilimanjaro thousands of years ago.

Amboseli is one of the best places to view elephant, which congregate in large numbers and whose bulls sport some of the longest tusks in all of Kenya. Other wildlife includes lions, leopards, impala, dikdik, giraffe, wildebeest and many others. Bird life also abounds and bird enthusiasts will be happy to espy pelicans, bee-eaters, kingfishers, African Fish Eagles, Martial Eagles and Pygmy Falcons.

A curious attraction at Amboseli is the lake bed during the dry season, upon which visitors will be sure they see herds of zebra, wildebeest and gazelles; in reality these images are far away horizons projected as hovering mirages.

Did you know?

“Amboseli” means “salty dust” in the Masai language. Amboseli and the surrounding lands have been important to the Masai tribe for centuries. Today the Kenyan government works with the local Masai elders to develop eco-friendly tourism that will benefit local people.

Accommodation

Amboseli Serena Lodge

Situated in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Amboseli Serena Lodge features natural architecture and beautifully-kept grounds. 96 rooms in separate cottages all offer private bathroom facilities and a unique African decor. The Lodge also features a lighted waterhole and salt lick.

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