Arusha National Park may be small, but it ‘packs a big punch’ as they say. Arusha National Park, Tanzania offers a taste of the entire northern circuit in this small, but charming park, with samplings of Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater all within a mere 1-hrs drive from Arusha town, making this park both accessible and exciting for a day trip.
An Arusha National Park tour offers visitors the chance to experience a “Little Serengeti” and a mini version of Ngorongoro Crater; Ngurdoto Crater. Enjoy canoeing or bird-watching around the lovely Momella lakes, which host flocks of both white and pink flamingoes. Travelers seeking a bit more adventure can trek Mount Meru, Africa’s fifth-highest (and Tanzania’s second-highest) peak. Park visitors can also get ‘up close’ to the Arusha National Park wildlife on a walking safari.
Best time to visit Arusha National Park
One of the appeals of Arusha National Park is that any season offers a great safari in this beautiful, small national park.
While the dry and wet seasons have a significant effect on some of the other national parks, in Arusha National Park the density of animals doesn’t drastically change throughout the year.
The dry Season in Tanzania
The dry season typically runs from January to early March and again from June to October.
Dry season is a great time to trek Mount Meru and take a walking safari. As you walk through the plains and swampy areas, led by a professional, armed park ranger, you are sure to see buffalo and zebras happily grazing, and giraffes nibbling tall trees in the distance.
You can also go canoeing in the Momella Lakes and paddle near egrets and majestic-looking flamingoes during the dry season.
The wet season in Tanzania
The rainy or wet season in Tanzania is generally from March – the end of May, and another, short rainy period in October or November, through to the beginning of December.
While it might rain regularly, it usually doesn’t rain the entire day, and you are sure to experience sunny periods.
The rainy season is a good time to see the Tululusa Waterfall powerfully flowing in all its glory.
You are also more likely to spot elephants in the forest areas during the rainy season than in the dry.
Where you will see animals will likely change between the seasons: for example, during the dry season you may see animals grazing on the plains or in the crater, but during the wet season you might encounter animals in the forested areas, instead.
How much does a safari in Arusha cost?
A safari in Arusha National park is generally a lower cost than many other Northern Circuit parks, because of its close proximity to Arusha and Moshi towns (1- 1.5 hours of travel, only), allowing you to take this excursion as a day trip.
The entrance fee per person is lower than in larger parks, like the Serengeti, which is an advantage, as well.
Park Entrance Fees for Arusha National Park at $50 for adult tourists, $15 for children (5 – 18 years old), and free entry for children under the age of 5.
Other fees include paying for a driver-guide, renting a safari vehicle, fuel, and lunch (a picnic lunch is a popular choice). The total price depends on the number of visitors, of course, but you can expect to spend around $745-1100 (total) for a day-trip safari in Arusha National park for 1-3 people, more if you are camping in the parks or if your accommodations are included in the overall cost. A trip for five people will cost about $260 per person.
Plan your trip to Arusha National Park
While you can visit Arusha National Park as a day trip, you may also enjoy spending the night either in the park or in the nearby area.
Accommodation options in or near Arusha Park
There are several accommodation options in or near Arusha National Park, from camping to hotels or lodges, depending on your preference.
Within Arusha National Park you can stay overnight at one of the 3 campsites that are available to the public.
The campsites vary from rugged, with outdoor toilets and rustic kitchen areas, to others with showers, flush toilets, and a modern building acting as the camp kitchen.
You (or your tour operator) should be prepared with tents, a camp stove, and everything needed for camping in Arusha National Park.
Outside of the gates, but very close in proximity to the park, are several beautiful lodges, offering views of Mount Meru or Mount Kilimanjaro or pristine gardens that attract unique species of birds.
Experiences at your accommodation
There are other niche lodges that focus on sharing different cultures represented in Tanzania, such as the Original Amini Maasai Lodge or the Osiligilai Maasai Lodge, which give guests a taste of the Maasai tribe’s customs.
Karama Lodge and Arusha Coffee Lodge are two options for accommodations that boast a coffee plantation for guests to tour and learn about growing coffee in Tanzania.
Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge is an all-around fantastic lodge for travelers seeking a romantic rest or families traveling with children and is located only 20 minutes from the Arusha National Park Momela Gate. The Lodge is set on a stunning lake, with a number of resident waterfowl, which you can see up close on a boat ride. There are swings stationed all around the beautiful pathways that meander around the lake and there is also a stable with horses for guests to visit, and trail rides perfect for young or beginning riders. Finally, the dining is picturesque, with the option to enjoy your meal in the garden or terraces.
What else to visit in the area?
If you’re making a day trip safari, then you might want to add a few other activities to your itinerary:
The Chemka Hot Springs are located near Moshi, a 2-hour drive from Arusha; a lovely oasis of naturally warm water, springing up from the ground. You can enjoy a swim and a local chip-mayai lunch here.
Lake Duluti is not far from Arusha National Park and offers a beautiful crater lake where guests can enjoy a boat ride, go fishing or take a leisurely hike around the lake.
Arusha Town is the ideal place to get your shopping done; buy authentic Tanzanian souvenirs at a local craft market or visit a spa for a relaxing massage. It is also the right place to buy Tanzanites, the gemstones which are 1000 rarer than diamonds!
Packing for a safari tour
A good thing to remember when packing for a safari is that your clothing should be practical and comfortable. Remember, a safari isn’t a fashion contest.
Bring along comfortable, light-weight pants or trousers and several airy tops or shirts that won’t feel hot in the humid, tropical weather (long shorts, skirts or light trousers are recommended for ladies, as the community is generally quite modest).
Also, pack a pair of walking sandals or sports shoes if you intend to go on a walking safari or participate in a coffee tour.
Many hotels and lodges have swimming pools, so pack swimming gear.
Finally, bring a sun hat, sun cream, and insect repellant, to ensure you really enjoy your safari experience to the maximum.
What are the animals in Arusha National Park?
During a visit to Arusha National Park animals you are likely to encounterinclude:
- Colobus monkeys
Some of the rarer animals to spot are:
Although they are there, you must have a very keen eye (and probably head out very early) to spy them.
Animals you will not see in Arusha National Park
There are no lions in Arusha National Park at all, which is one of the reasons walking safaris are permitted. You will see gazelles, zebras, and other grazing animals moving about at ease because their top predator doesn’t live here!
Arusha National Park is not the most well-known park in Tanzania, but it offers a great experience for visitors who are looking to ‘taste’ a little of all the parks in Northern Tanzania, all within the span of an excellent day-trip safari!