Arusha National Park Highlights
Located just a short drive from Arusha and Moshi, the Arusha National Park is Tanzania's most accessible national park and the perfect place for a day trip or as the first or last stop on a longer itinerary. At 552 sq km, it's a small park and, while there is wildlife here, it's nothing compared to that of other northern-circuit parks. But these minor details can be quickly forgotten when you're walking amid the soul-stirring scenery and exploring the meaningful trekking possibilities.
The transition between unappealing urban chaos and pristine mountain hiking trails is rarely so abrupt as it is in Arusha National Park. One of Tanzania’s most beautiful and topographically varied protected areas, the park is dominated by Mt Meru, an almost perfect volcanic cone with a spectacular crater. It also shelters Ngurdoto Crater (often dubbed Little Ngorongoro), with its swamp-filled floor and lost-world feel.
Arusha National Park is also home to the world's largest population of giraffes, making it a great place to visit for fans of these long-necked, beautiful animals. With diverse wildlife that includes herbivores such as elephants, hippos, buffalo, zebra, and even the occasional wildebeest, Arusha National Park is also a perfect place to get out and stretch your legs - with both walking safaris and canoe safaris available within the park. Arusha National Park boasts a broad variety of landscapes, ranging from open savannah through acacia scrubland to rainforest and, eventually, to alpine conditions on the higher reaches of Mt. Meru.
Pros & Cons
Best Time for Wildlife Viewing
Wildlife viewing in Arusha NP is more low-key than in the other parks in northern Tanzania. Animals that are easily seen include buffalo, giraffe and several antelope species. More exciting is the black-and-white colobus monkey that lives in the forest, and the large number of bird species. Several lakes often host flocks of flamingo. Arusha National Park can be visited throughout the year, but the Dry season from June to October is the best time for wildlife viewing. Wildlife is easier to spot because vegetation is thinner and animals gather around predictable water sources. In the peak of the Wet season (March to April), some of the roads might become difficult to navigate, which can interfere with your wildlife viewing experience.
Weather & Climate
Arusha’s mild climate sees average daytime temperatures ranging from 21°C/70°F to 26°C/79°F. The Dry season (June to October) is the coolest time of year, getting downright chilly before sunrise. Rug up if you’re doing an early game drive. The Wet season (November to May) has two periods of rainfall with a dry spell in between. But it’s only during the so-called ‘long rains’ (March to May) that downpours might hamper your safari.
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.
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.
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.
Best Time to Visit
You can practically freeze at night in Arusha during the drier months (June to October) when the occasional cold front sweeps through. But that’s the only real challenge of visiting at this time. The wildlife watching is at its best, and the sunshine at its brightest. The wetter months mainly appeal to those keen to see the arrival of migratory birds.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.
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.
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 Nataional Park 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.