Arusha National Park
How big: 137km²
Best time to go: June - October
Where is it: In northern Tanzania, on the Kenyan border, near Arusha
Why visit?

Arusha National Park is the closest national park to Arusha town covering an area of 137 sq. km and is about 60kms from Kilimanjaro International Airport.
The Park has a wide range of habitats, from the string of crater lakes where many water birds can be watched, through the highland montane forest and on up to the imposing summit of Mt. Meru. The interesting geology of the area is reflected in the impressive view of the ash cone and cliff face leading to the summit of Mt. Meru.

Three distinct areas are to be found within Arusha National Park:
Ngurdoto Crater, the Momela Lakes and the rugged Mt. Meru. Altitudes range from 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) above sea level at Momela to over 4,500 (14,764 feet) meters at the summit of Meru.

The Ngurdoto Crater, 20 Kms across and 100 metres deep is surrounded by forest whilst the crater floor is a swampy area. The Momella Lakes, 10 Kms north of Ngurdoto Crater, were formed about ¼ million years ago, perhaps when Mt. Meru exploded and spewed volcanic debris and liquid mud over the surrounding area. 

The Momela Lakes, like many in the Rift Valley, are alkaline, and Mt. Meru is a mixture of lush forests and bare rocks. The forests contain a wealth of birds and other animals, like the beautiful bushbuck easily glimpsed in the grades between the ancient cedar trees, or the black and white colobus monkeys climbing along their branches. Other animals found in the park include buffalo, hippo, reedbuck, waterbuck, elephant, giraffe, baboon, bushpig, sykes monkey, vervet monkey, mongoose and warthog. Birdlife includes grebe, African pochard, ibis, heron and egret.

Although elephants are uncommon in Arusha National Park, and lions absent altogether, leopards and spotted hyenas may be seen slinking around in the early morning and late afternoon. It is also at dusk and dawn that the veil of cloud on the eastern horizon is most likely to clear, revealing the majestic snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro, only 50km distant. But it is Kilimanjaro's unassuming cousin, Mount Meru - the 5th highest in Africa at 4,566 metres (14,990 feet) - that dominates the park's horizon.
Everlasting flowers cling to the alpine desert, as delicately-hoofed klipspringers mark the hike's progress.