Updated: Jun 4
Summary: Arusha National Park is small but game-packed Park 35 km from Mt. Kilimanjaro. We stopped here to enjoy some wildlife before our very long 300 km drive to Ngorongoro Crater. This 522 square kilometer park is the home of Zebras, Baboons, Buffalo, Warthogs, Giraffes, Hippos, and a variety of birds, among other wildlife. It was a good practice run for what was to come during our Tanzania Safari.
The day started with a game drive through this conservation area. I'd like to think of this day as the "practice" run for the larger game drives in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. It also happened to break up the 300 km long drive from Mt. Kilimanjaro to Ngorongoro Crater, which is likely why our tour company included a stop here.
About Arusha National Park. This Park is the home of Mount Meru, the fifth highest mountain in Africa with a peak at 4,566 meters. The park was established in 1960 and then after adding the Mt. Meru area, the Park was renamed and became known as Arusha National Park. The name Arusha was came from local Waarusha people who used to live in the area. At just 522 square kilometers, the main spots in Arusha National Park may be viewed in just a few short hours.
Early in the drive, we saw our first big game in Tanzania. Our driver, Ebenezer, had a remarkable eye for spotting wildlife, but at Arusha National Park, it did not take much experience to find the animals. That expertise would, however, come in handy in the days ahead.
The first group of game we came upon consisted of Zebras, Buffalo, Warthogs, Giraffes, and a variety of birds. It was beautiful to see these groups living together in harmony – each seemingly benefiting from the others’ presence.
On the roadside we met up with a pair of giraffe doing this beautiful dance.
We also ran into a family of baboons.
The game drive continued to a lake where we would stop for lunch and a Canoe trip on Momela Lake. At this naturally alkaline lake, no crocodiles resided here so canoeing was safe for visitors. The canoe trip was roughly 90 minutes and guided by two tour guides. Each of us took a paddle and helped maneuver each 2-person canoe. The tour of the lake included several stops to learn about various birds of the area. Our guides were highly knowledgeable about the ecology of the park, species residing in the Park, and much to our entertainment, knew the birdcalls as well.
About Flamingos. One section of the lake contained a group of Flamingos. The Flamingos found in Arusha National Park feast in the alkaline lakes of the Park where the algae, Spirulina, can grow. It is this algae that gives the Flamingos their pink color. We ended up venturing too close and they took off, first by seemingly running on water, then taking flight.
After the canoe trip, we enjoyed our box lunch before heading out of the Park. Looking back to this day we have to kind of laugh. The Park is great for sure, but in comparison to the amount of animals we saw in Serengeti, in hindsight, it is funny how excited we got over the modest groups we saw at Arusha National Park.
Long Drives. About the long drives. If you’re not a fan of long drives, you may want to consider ways to extend your trip and stay in each section longer. Apart from flying in small planes, there’s no way to avoid the long distances in the a car. Drivers here are very experienced in covering the long distances, much of which is on bumpy, dusty, dirt roads. All of our driving days were accompanied by a half-day game drive or activity so it really wasn’t that bad. Just know though, you are going to spend a ton of time in the car when you’re here.
Ngorongoro Crater. At the rim of the Crater, we reached a vista point and stopped to enjoy the gorgeous view below. The day ended with arriving at our lodging just in time for sunset.
(Video: while we waited in the car for our driver to register us at the Park entrance)
A note about the food on our Tanzania Safari: If you are curious about the food situation, here is how our Safari worked. The food, generally, was amazing. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the hot meals at each of our stops. The style is fairly European in that most meals included a soup starter, main course (protein + veggie + starch like potatoes or rice), and a dessert. The flavors were remarkably good. Meals are typically ordered hours in advance so the kitchen can prepare your meal and typically you are given two to three options.
Some days we had hot breakfast before heading out. This always consisted of a personal order for eggs, e.g. scrambled, over-easy, etc. and sausage, and then a buffet or table of fruit, toast or other breads, and sometimes a cereal option. Some game drives were started early, so we brought a boxed breakfast, which was ordered the day previously. They would consist of things like hard-boiled eggs, muffins, toast, juice, and fruit. Every lunch was a boxed lunch as were our on the go during the day. Boxed lunch choices consisted of small bites, like a small sandwich, small wrap, apple, juice, and breakfast. Despite being “small bites,” they were always too much food in that each box consisted of a whole lot of different items. The boxed meals were less flavorful but they were nonetheless suitable for our needs.
When we booked this trip, we had no expectations in terms of food. Even with this relatively low bar, we can definitely say that our meals far exceeded our expectations.
About Duma Explorer Safari Company. This Tanzanian and American-owned company came recommended by a family friend. The American owners, Stacy Readal, happens to live close-by to our house so we were able to meet with her in person ahead of our trip. While convenient for us, we could have done everything by email and phone just the same. We have nothing but great things to say about this awesome company. From door-to-door, they had us covered for everything we needed on our trip. Our driver Ebinezer (after Kilimanjaro and for the rest of the week), was so talented at locating animals on our game drives, in addition to just being an over all, fun guy to be around. The lodging at each stop was perfect and each had surprisingly tasty food, along with amazing service. We highly recommend booking with Duma Explorer.