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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Gombe Stream National Park

Size: 20 sq. miles (52 sq. km.) – Best Chimpanzees Viewing: Feb.-June, Nov.-Dec. (wet) – Best Photography: July-Oct., Late Dec. (dry)

Sweeping up from the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Gombe Stream National Park is a forested wonder. The smallest of the Tanzanian parks, Gombe Stream owes much of its fame to the studies of Jane Goodall, who conducted her groundbreaking research on the wild chimpanzees in this area.

Indeed, the chimps are one of the main attractions and visitors are overwhelmed by the experience of joining the primates in their natural habitat as they go about their business.

Gombe Stream does not contain roads and observation of wildlife must be done on foot or by boat. (The park is accessed by boat from Kigoma.) It’s a small park, but hilly and some trails can be demanding. Chimpanzee treks and swimming in the rivers and lake can be arranged as well as a visit to the chimpanzee feeding station.

Did you know?

Stanley’s famous encounter with Dr. Livingstone took place near Kigoma in a place called Ujiji.
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Accommodation

Camping in the park

Camping on the beach is allowed; however, remember that animals will be attracted to food and can be very destructive so be sure to secure all your supplies.

Hostel

At the park headquarters visitors may spend the night in one of several buildings but be sure to bring all your own supplies.

Kigoma Hilltop Hotel

Overlooking the blue waters of Lake Tanganyika from a rocky outcropping above, the Hilltop Hotel offers 30 luxury cottages each with hot/cold water, ensuite bathroom facilities, satellite TV and beautiful views.
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Chimpanzee image: Copyright (C) Delphine Bruyere

Rubondo Island National Park

Size: 450 sq. km. (including water area) Best time: June-Aug. (dry); Nov.-March (wet: birds, flowers)

Rubondo Island National Park is composed of Rubondo Island itself and eight smaller islands in Lake Victoria, just off the Tanzanian coast. The islands are very secluded and offer a glimpse of unique African habitats and wildlife. Most of the park is primary forest with a dense canopy; papyrus beds and grassland make up the rest.

Rubondo Island is home to many Sitatunga, a type of aquatic antelope that cannot be observed anywhere else in Tanzania. Rubondo is also a good place to observe chimpanzee as well as colobus and vervet monkeys, crocodiles, hippos, elephants, eagles and storks. The experience of Rubondo Island is unique in that, due to the lack of large predators, visitors can explore the African wilds on foot. The island is a naturalist’s delight with myriads of exotic orchids, lilies, insects and trees.

Although the island takes a while to reach, its pristine seclusion is well worth the trip. Chimpanzee treks, boat and walking safaris and fishing are all available. Luxury camping is possible on the island itself with advance reservations.

Did you know?

Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world, second only to Lake Superior on the border of Canada and the United States.

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Accommodation

Camping in the park

Rudimentary camping facilities are available on the island; be sure to take all your own equipment and supplies.

Luxury Tented Camp

Flycatcher Hotel Ltd. have opened a 20-bed luxury camp on Rubondo Island.

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