Arusha National Park Safari Guide
Though very accessible, Arusha NP isn't on many safari itineraries. This is mainly because it doesn't offer a chance of seeing the Big Five. The park is at the base of Mount Meru, which is good for climbing. It has a range of habitats including forest – home to the black-and-white colobus monkey – and the park is excellent for birding.
Pros & Cons
Very scenic with different habitats, including forest
Views of Mount Kilimanjaro
Excellent birding with about 400 species, including forest birds
Close to Arusha and accessible for a day trip
Canoeing, walking and mountain climbs offered
Off-the-beaten track and not crowded
Most of the major safari animals aren't present or easily seen
Wildlife & Animals
Arusha National Park is the 'odd one out' in Tanzania's northern safari circuit. It doesn't offer the usual range of wildlife that the other parks do. Of the Big Five, only buffalo are regularly seen, and lion and rhino are absent. Its appeal lies in the scenic beauty and unusual animals. The charismatic black-and-white colobus monkey is the flagship species.
The forest in Arusha National Park is home to species not often encountered in other parks in northern Tanzania, including 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 are very common in the area around the Momella lakes.
Arusha NP should be on every bird watcher’s itinerary in Tanzania. Over 400 species recorded in such a small park is quite an impressive count. Momella Lake is one of the best places in Tanzania to see waterbirds: flamingo, pelican, little grebe, a variety of heron, duck and wader are common. Augur buzzard, Verreaux’s eagle and other cliff-associated raptors can often be seen flying above Ngurdoto Crater. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
Best Time to Visit
Wildlife viewing in Arusha National Park is good throughout the year but is at its best in the Dry season, from late June to October. The beautiful scenery is most impressive in the Wet season, from November to May, although March and April can be very wet and grey. The clear skies from December through February give you the best views of Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro.
June to October – Dry Season
It is easier to spot animals as they gather at water sources and the vegetation is thin
It is sunny, and there is little rain
Fewer mosquitoes and less chance of catching malaria
Mornings and nights can be cold
November to May – Wet Season
The scenery is beautiful and at its most lush
Views of Kilimanjaro and Meru are most reliable from December to February
It's less crowded in April and May, as it is the low season – also, rates are likely to be lower
Arusha NP offers good wildlife viewing throughout the year
Birding is best as migratory birds are present
Some roads might become difficult to navigate
March to May is the peak of the Wet season
Weather & Climate
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 base of the mountain and tends to get slightly more rain and clouds.
Dry Season – June to October
Temperatures in the afternoon are generally around 19°C/66°F. Sunny weather and clear skies are common during the day.
June, July, August & September – Expect cold nights with temperatures around 9°C/48°F at a minimum. There can be occasional cold fronts with temperatures near freezing. Warm clothes are strongly recommended for early morning game drives.
October – The 'short rains' could start in October when they arrive early.
Wet Season – November to May
The Wet season’s temperatures are mild, similar to the Dry season’s. Temperatures in the afternoon are usually around 23°C/73F°, while temperatures at night are around 11°C/52°F.
November & December – 'Short rains' – A month-long time of unpredictable rains usually occurring between November and December. The rains rarely affect your safari since it is unusual to rain all day long during this time. Showers during the afternoon are likely.
January & February – Usually, there is a dry period between the rains that is not possible to predict with accuracy.
March, April & May – 'Long rains' – These months are the wettest. It rains most days, but rarely all day long. Clouds are common.
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), which is 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).
In most cases, your tour operator will pick you up from the airport and take care of further transportation.