While Arusha National Park may not be the biggest national park in Tanzania, it does have a lot of beautiful landscapes and wonderful animals for visitors to enjoy. That, along with its very convenient location next to one of Tanzania’s largest cities, makes it a popular destination for tourists visiting Tanzania.
In this guide, I am going to give you all of the information you need to plan your trip to visit Arusha National Park. We will discuss the best times to visit this beautiful park, what you need to be aware of before you visit, the best things for you to bring along with you on safari, how much you can expect to pay to visit the park, and what amazing sites and animals you can expect to see within the park.
Before You Visit
Before you leave for your trip to Tanzania, you need to make sure you have all of the proper vaccinations. Not only to protect yourself, but to protect others. In fact, depending on where you are visiting from and whether you are making any stops before visiting Tanzania, you might not even be allowed in the country without the proper vaccinations.
If you have questions on what immunizations you will need and what to look out for when you go to get them, below are some general guidelines I can pass on to you from experience.
- Most specialized travel clinics will not accept insurance, so you will have to pay for your travel consultation and immunizations and then request reimbursement from your insurance company later.
- Some immunizations aren’t accepted by every insurance company, so check with your insurance provider before getting your immunizations.
- Check with your regular doctor first, as often they can do a travel consultation for you and write you the necessary prescriptions for your immunizations, even if they aren’t able to give them to you. This way you can ensure that at least your travel consultation will be covered by your insurance up-front.
- Check with Walgreens or other drug stores that give flu shots to see if they have any of the immunization shots that you require before going to a specialized clinic that doesn’t accept insurance to get them. Walgreens is able to give you many of the immunizations necessary for international travel, and they accept insurance up-front.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website can be a great resource for answering any travel immunization questions that you have.
In case you are unsure of what travel vaccinations you might need, I have compiled a list below of some of what you might expect your physician to recommend.
- Antimalarial (Aralen, Qualaquin, Plaquenil, Mefloquine, or Doxycycline).
- Typhoid (either a shot, which is good for 2 years, or live virus pill, which is good for 4 years).
- Yellow Fever (be aware that some countries require a yellow fever vaccination if you are traveling from another country that is high risk, even if your stay in that other country was short).
- Hepetitis A & B (if you haven’t had them).
- Tetanus (if you aren’t current).
- Rabies (if you are going to be working in close contact with animals).
- Dukoral (gives you 3 month protection against travel diarrhea).
- Flu Shot
Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements
Depending on which country you are arriving from, you may need to have a Yellow Fever vaccination to enter the country. If you are travelling to Tanzania from another country in Africa, please use the US Centers of Disease Control (CDC) website to determine if you will be required to have proof of the Yellow Fever vaccination to enter.
What to Bring
If you are visiting Africa and going on safari for the first time, you might not be sure of what to bring with you on safari. To help you with these questions, I have developed a handy Safari Packing list and a Photographer’s Guide to Taking Pictures on Safari that will help you make sure you have the gear that is essential to make your trip a success.
Getting to Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park is located in Northern Tanzania, near the large city of Arusha. Because of its location, it is a popular destination for tourists who fly into Mt. Kilimanjaro National Airport in Arusha. From there, it is only a very short drive to get to the national park.
The park sits in fairly close proximity to some of the larger and more well known parks in Tanzania, including the Ngorongoro National Conservation Area, the Serengeti National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park, and Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. It is also fairly close to the Kenyan border, which makes visiting Kenya to see some of its beautiful parks fairly easy as well.
When visiting Arusha National Park, there are several ways in which you can see the park. While many people choose to take a guided safari, the park also allows you to drive your own vehicle inside and throughout the park as there are roads that you can use throughout much of the park.
If you are feeling adventurous, there are several campsites that you can stay at inside the park to really get that authentic safari experience. Otherwise, there are also several very nice lodges near the park that you can stay at as well. If you would like to stay in one of the lodges, I would strongly recommend that you make your reservations at least 6 months in advance to ensure you get the lodging you want.
|Ngare Sero Lodge|
|Serena Mountain Village Lodge|
|Dik Dik Lodge|
|Mt. Meru Safari Lodge|
Being a national park, there are fees to visit Arusha National Park. These fees can vary depending on what you are planning to do within the park and how long you are planning to stay. To give you an idea of what fees you can expect, please see the table below.
|Entrance/Conservation fees:||US$45 per person per day (foreigners)|
|Hut fees:||US$30 per person per night (foreigners)|
|Guide fees:||US$15-20 per person (possibly per day, foreigners)|
|Rescue fee:||US$20 per person (foreigners)|
Best Time to Visit
Undoubtedly, the best time to visit Arusha National Park is between the months of June thru October. During this time, the animals are much easier to spot as the vegetation isn’t as thick and dense. There is also usually much more sunlight and less rain during this time of year. However, because it is winter time in Tanzania, you will want to make sure you bring some warm layers to wear in the mornings and evenings.
The wet season in Tanzania is between March and May, which means the parks are usually at their lushest. This means that animals are typically harder to spot and the roads (many of which are gravel) are not in their best condition. However, this is the low time of year for tourism, which means that you will typically have to deal with far fewer other tourists while inside the park.
June thru October
- Animals are easier to spot as the vegetation isn’t as thick and the animals are typically congregated by the water sources.
- There is typically a lot of sun and very little rain.
- Because the weather isn’t as wet, malaria carrying mosquitoes are less prevalent.
- You will want to dress warmly as the mornings can be cold at this time of year.
November thru May
- The park is at its greenest and most lush.
- It is typically the least crowded in April and May, which is the park’s low season.
- Bird watching is best as the migratory birds are visiting the park at this time.
- There may be a lot of mud on the roads because of heavy rains.
- March is the height of the rainy season.
Because Arusha National Park is so close to a densely populated city, it limits some of the wildlife viewing that you will see in the park. Because of its location and the fact that migration routes are blocked by human habitation, there hasn’t been a lion spotted in the park since 1998. While this doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance you will see a lion in the park, the odds are very low.
The same can be said with the other big predators such as hyenas, leopards, and cheetahs. While the likelihood of spotting one of these predators in the park is higher than that of spotting a lion, the odds are still fairly low that you will see these animals inside the park.
That said, there is a chance that you will see elephants, and spotting giraffe, buffalo, and zebra is fairly easy as their numbers are much more plentiful inside the park. Some of the other animals that you have a very good chance of seeing inside the park include colobus monkeys, baboons, blue monkeys, warthogs, dik diks, red duiker, and a variety of other herbivores.
The park has a variety of different habitats, which makes it possible to see a wide array of different animals. Some of the forested areas are prime habitat for colobus and blue monkeys, which are fairly easy to spot within the trees of these areas. They are especially easy to spot during the summer months when the vegetation within the park isn’t as lush and dense.
There are also several different grasslands within the park that are prime habitat for grazing animals such as buffalo, zebra, and other herbivores. It is not uncommon to see large groups of grazers out in the grassy fields or near the roads. It is also typically easy to spot giraffe within the park feeding on the trees on the hillsides and in the areas between the forests and the grasslands.
Being on safari is such an amazing experience and you should enjoy every single second of it. However, if you aren’t careful, you might not get everything out of the experience that you could have.
In order to make sure that you get everything out of your safari experience in Arusha National Park that you possibly can, I have provided some general safari tips below for you to review.
- Be Patient and Open Minded – When you are on safari, everything isn’t going to go according to plan. The weather, the animal’s behavior, and other factors are going to impact where you go and what you see.
- Safety First – It is really easy to get caught up in the safari experience and want to get the best pictures you possibly can. However, safety should always be the primary concern. To give you some help in how to remain safe while on safari in Arusha National Park, I have outlined some general safety tips for you to review later in this guide.
- Don’t Get Stuck Behind Your Camera – Everyone wants to get great pictures while on safari, and you should absolutely bring your camera and take a lot of pictures. However, if you spend your entire time in Arusha National Park looking thru your camera, you are going to miss out on some of the experience. I would recommend setting your camera down every-once-in-a-while and just enjoy being in such an amazing place.
- Ask Lots of Questions – Make sure you ask your safari guide a lot of questions while you are in Arusha National Park. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to ask which type of animal you are looking at or why they are doing what they are doing, but your safari guide is there to answer these questions for you. And believe me, they enjoy answering these questions. Don’t get home and regret not asking those questions.
- Be Conscious of Time – You are going to see some amazing things while you are on safari in Arusha National Park. However, as I mentioned before, the time that your daily permit is good for is limited. Don’t get too caught up in one place within the crater for too long as you might regret not having time to do other things later. By no means am I suggesting that you should rush thru the crater, but you might not want to linger watching one thing for hours-upon-hours either.
Being on safari can be an amazing and exciting experience, but it can also be a very dangerous experience if you don’t follow the proper safety rules. In order to ensure that your safari experience is a memorable and safe one, I have outlined some general safari safety rules for you to review below.
- Obey your safari guide at all times – The most important safari safety tip of all is to listen to your safari guide and obey them at all times. They are there to keep you safe, so let them.
- Don’t stick anything out of the safari vehicle – It is never a good idea to stick anything outside of a safari vehicle. Whether this be your arms, your feet, or your camera as you try to get a great picture, keep them inside the vehicle at all times.
- Don’t make a lot of sudden or frantic movements in the vehicle – When you are in the safari vehicle, the animals tend to think of the vehicle and everything associated with it as one homogeneous entity. However, if you make sudden and frantic movements, or do something else to make you stick out as a part from the vehicle, you may become an object of interest to them.
- Never get out of the vehicle unless your guide says you can – This point cannot be stressed strongly enough. Never, and I mean never, get out of your safari vehicle unless your safari guide explicitly instructs that it is safe.
- Never leave your tent or lodge room at night – This is another point that I cannot emphasize strongly enough. You should never leave your tent or lodge room at night without a chaperone. The African bush can be a dangerous place, especially at night, so make sure you follow whichever procedures your safari guide gives you for getting assistance at night. If they don’t mention this, make sure you ask ahead of time.
- Walk, never run – If you do find yourself outside of your vehicle and confronted by an animal (hopefully this never happens), then make sure that you stay as calm as possible, walk away slowly (never turning your back on the animal), and NEVER, EVER run away.
- Never swim in lakes or rivers – Unless you are explicitly told by your safari guide that the waters are free of hippos and crocodiles, you should never attempt to swim in a lake, river, or pond. Even then, I would think twice about doing it. Hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal, and crocodiles are not far behind on the list, so you always have to be safe when even approaching bodies of water.
Arusha National Park might be missing some of the big predators that you typically see at other parks, but the positive side of this is that it makes it relatively safer to go on a walking safari. There are still dangers to walking in the park, which is why an armed park ranger escort is required, but I felt much more at ease knowing that there weren’t as many, if any, large predators to worry about.
Taking a walking safari in Arusha National Park is a really cool experience because it allows you to get a better look at some of the wildlife that is in the park. You should still make sure that you keep a safe distance from the animals, and the park ranger who guides you will make sure that you do that. However, you are able to get a much better view of the animals when you are outside of your vehicle, even when it is at a safe distance.
Not only do you get a better view of the animals when you are on a walking safari, but you are also able to experience some of the other cool things to do in the park. These include, but are certainly not limited to, such things as getting an up-close look at the Tululusia Waterfall and climbing Mount Meru. Both are things that you absolutely must see when you are in the park.
The Fig Tree Arch
Another really cool feature within Arusha National Park is the Fig Tree Arch. This huge fig tree, which has had an archway cut thru it, is absolutely spectacular. There aren’t many trees in this world that you can actually drive a safari vehicle thru, and this is one of them. When you visit the fig tree arch, you are able to get out of your vehicle and inspect the tree a little more closely, snap some pictures, and marvel at how enormous this tree is.
The Tululusia Waterfall is a beautiful waterfall within Arusha National Park that you are able to walk to and visit when on a walking safari. Because you have to get off the roadway and cross the park to get to the falls, it is not recommended that you try and visit the falls without a park ranger to guide you. In my opinion, seeing this breathtaking waterfall alone is worth paying the price for a walking safari.
Next to the falls there are several trees that have roots growing down the rock embankment. This was one of the most interesting and beautiful things I have seen in any national park around the world. We couldn’t help but snap up some photos when we visited, like the one you see above.
Climbing Mount Meru
If you are the adventurous type, when visiting Arusha National Park, you have the opportunity to climb Mount Meru. This 4,566 meter (or 14,977 feet) mountain may not be as high as Mount Kilimanjaro, but it is still a spectacular mountain. We only climbed for a few hours and got only a small fraction of the way up and our entire group was tired.
In order to summit Mount Meru, you will need to overnight as it will take you several days to reach the summit. So if you plan on climbing Mount Meru when you visit the park, you are going to want to plan ahead and have a guide and arrangements made for accommodations well in advance of your trip. If I had more time at Arusha National Park, this is something I would have definitely wanted to do.
On Safari in Arusha National Park
To give you a better sense of what it is like to visit Arusha National Park and go on safari, I have put together a short video of our visit. Please watch to see the beautiful animals we saw and the amazing landscapes we enjoyed!
Arusha National Park is an absolutely breathtaking place. It may not get all of the glory that Tanzania’s other national parks receive, but it is a unique and fascinating place in its own right. Below are just some of the many amazing pictures we were able to take when visiting the park.
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