A Travel Guide to Arusha National Park and Mount Meru Trekking
Located 25 km north-east of Arusha and 58 km from Moshi. Arusha national park is relatively small in size (137 km2) and has many fewer animals than other parks in Tanzania.
It is made up of distinct parts. The small crater of Ngurdoto, with its steep edges, the reign of Momella, with its salt water lakes nestled in the hills, and Mount Meru, an ancient extinct volcano whose crater is surrounded by several wooden edges. The average altitude of the park ranges from 1,500 m to Momella 4,500 m at the top of Mount Meru.
Arusha national park is surrounded by areas of cultivated land and plantations. There are farms and fields nearby, as well as a pine forest for several kilometers to the south and southwest. Forests also extend on the slopes of Mount Meru. In fact, this park seems more interesting for its sites and its landscapes than for its fauna. Suddenly, there are fewer visitors than elsewhere.
Little Facts about the Park
Arusha Park is ideal for a day safari from Arusha. We recommend visiting the crater of Ngurdoto in the morning, then discovering the park in the afternoon and finishing with the surroundings of Mount Meru in the late afternoon. As in the other parks, an all-terrain vehicle is necessary to circulate on the tracks. As there are no lions, the guides allow passengers to get out of the all-terrain vehicles from time to time without ever moving too far. – There are many observation points and really nice sites for picnics. It is forbidden to descend to the bottom of Ngurdoto crater. The ascent of Mount Meru must be done with an armed guide, because of the buffaloes. Best time to go is between October and February, and especially between December and February. During this period, the rains stop momentarily. The sky is clear. The summits stand out wonderfully well. During the dry season, the air is much more charged with heat haze.
What to see in Arusha National Park
Massais giraffes, elephants (not very numerous), hippos, buffaloes. You also find colobus monkeys (colobus) with bushy tails, baboons, and “blue” vervets. Certain varieties of antelope. Warthogs on the slopes of Mount Meru. But you won’t see lions, rhinos, or wildebeest. Birds: around 40 species of birds live on the shores of Momella lakes and in the surrounding forests.
Lesser flamingos, flamingos (larger but less pink), pelicans, ducks, geese, sedentary or migrating waders. The crested hornbills can be recognised by their ivory coloured helmets and their cry, which resembles an evil laugh.
From the gate tracks lead there directly through a tropical forest with inhabit monkeys. One leads to the southern ridge of the crater, the other runs along the northern ridge. They do not meet. You must therefore retrace the steps after the game drive. From everywhere, you will discover the crater from above and the view is superb. Impossible to descend, as in the crater of Ngorongoro, here it is prohibited. This amazing Ngurdoto crater measures 3 km in diameter.
In total, seven observation points have been set up along the slopes which overlook it, to the south and to the north. The last observation posts are the most interesting (The Rock and Buffalo Point), because they are at a high altitude. But the highest of all the observation posts is the Leitong, 1,850 m (to the north). Many animals live in the bottom of the crater, including herds of buffaloes.
The lakes of Momella:
We speak in the plural, because there are several lakes close together but separated from each other by nipples covered with wild herbs. The track winds around the lakes, and follows the accidents of the relief. First there is Lake Big Momella. As the name suggests, it is the largest. At certain times of the year (February), it is invaded, on its banks, by colonies of pink flamingos. Lakes Small Momella, Lekandiro, Tulusia and Rishateni waterfalls are also very beautiful to observe.
They also contain fresh salt water, and algae which, depending on their species, give a different color to the waves. Another originality, the fish are few. Birds don’t drink water, but they feed on algae they find on the surface. Flamingos feed on small crustaceans. You can also meet many ducks, sacred ibis, geese from Egypt. A few hippos live on the shores of Small Momella Lake.
Mount Meru Trekking:
The second peak in Tanzania after Mount Kilimanjaro, it rises to 4,565 m and dominates the city of Arusha with its majestic silhouette. If Kilimanjaro is table-shaped, Mount Meru looks like a large, almost perfect cone, with a horseshoe-shaped crater, bordered by high, steep walls. Within the crater itself, another small peak is clearly distinguished.
It is called the Ash Cone and it is the result of recent eruptions. Unlike the nearby Ngurdoto, a small extinct volcano, Mount Meru is just a dormant high volcano. The last eruption dates back to the end of the 11th century.
Its formation dates from around 20 million years ago. It would have come out of the ground at the same time as the Rift Valley. Its crater is the result of a gigantic explosion. The Waarushas (people from Arusha), the local ethnic group, consider Mount Meru as a sacred mountain. Each year, animal sacrifices take place in his honor, to encourage the coming of the rain. The first European to discover this volcano was the German explorer Karl Von der Decken, in 1862.
The Austro-Hungarian count Teleki Von Szek discovered the region in 1876, but did not reach the summit. Then passed Gustav Fischer and the Englishman Joseph Thomson (1883). The first European ascent dates from 1901 or 1904.
In the early days of Tanzanian socialism, Mount Meru was baptized by the Socialist Peak government, the “Socialist peak” or “Socialist mountain”. But this appellation remained official and administrative, the Tanzanians continuing to prefer to call it by its traditional name, which is moreover much more poetic.
The ascent of Mount Meru:
The Mount Meru being less known to hikers than Mount Kilimanjaro, many people prefer this trek since the conditions of preparation and training, the effects of altitude, are the same on the walkers.
Bring warm clothes, as the temperature at the top can drop below freezing at night. The ascent can be done without fatigue in 4 days and 3 nights. Most hikes take 3 days and 2 nights. To be a champion, we really advise against doing this hike in two days: it’s too short, too exhausting. In any case, it is better to leave with a guide who are experienced with a way.
There are also rangers from Arusha National Park who will accompany a group. They are armed, in case a buffalo or an elephant decides to charge you. Booking reservations are made in advance, kindly contact us for more information. Normally, Shizi team provide for your food, and do not forget the tip at the end of the hike. Unless you are a large group and carry a lot, porters are not necessary to go to the top of Mount Meru, unlike Kilimanjaro. The cost of trekking include the pay for the entrance to the park (entrance fee), for the night at the refuge (hut fee), for the guide (services of guide), for security (rescue fee), for meals (3 meals per day) plus a special tax from the government for the park (Park commission).
The easiest way is to go through our contact form and send us inquiry. This will take care of the formalities and the material aspects, which costs a little more, but it frees you from a lot of worries: reservations for places in shelters, supplies, guides, taxes to be paid.
Mount Meru Trekking itinerary:
10 km or 4 to 5 hours of walking from the headquarters of Arusha park at Momella Gate (Momella gate) to the Miriakamba refuge (2,514 m). During this walk, we cross the Ngare Nanyuki river and follow the track that climbs on the side of Mount Meru, through wet clearings. You will pass under the natural arch of an old fig tree.
It is so large that a vehicle can pass under it. The ascent continues in the juniper and podocarpus forests. You can hear the Mountain pigeons, red-fronted parrots and Hartlaub turacos roam the trees.
The Miriakamba camp is made up of small houses each housing nice and clean beds. There is a kitchen area, but no cooking equipment which porters will be carrying them. There are clean toilets and water.
4 km or 2 to 3 hours of walk to the Saddle refuge (Saddle Hut, 3600 m). 1,050 m difference in height. A possible but not compulsory variant from the Saddle refuge is to climb in an hour and a half to the summit of Little Meru (3,820 m). At the Saddle refuge, there is a fireplace, water (source), and toilets. Be careful, the nights are cool.
5 km or 4 to 5 hours of walking. It is the last stretch of walk between the Saddle refuge and the summit of Mount Meru which culminates at 4,566 m. The difference in height is 1,000 m. Then descend to the starting point, the Saddle refuge (5 km, 2 to 3 hours) here you will have meal before continue down to the Momella gate.
Return from Saddle Hut to Momella Gate: 9 km, from 3 to 5:30 am depending on the condition of your body and track, difference in altitude is 2,000 m.
The best solution for a day trip from Moshi or Arusha is to have a picnic. Most travel agencies sleep their customers in Arusha and visit the park in the day or in case you want to trek Mount Meru then there are sites for camping in the park, including two at the foot of Tululisia hill, not far from Momella Lodge, and another near the crater of Ngurdoto. There is water and toilets.
Shizi safaris is a local Tanzanian travel company that is committed to provide you with best safari experience while considering your value for money. Contact us today for a sample safari itinerary.