There are some parks in Africa, which are not so well known for several reasons, but are easily accessible, give great opportunity for the safari photographer, and are absolutely worth a visit – for me, that all is true for the Arusha National Park.
Arusha National Park is situated between the cities of Arusha and Moshi in Northern Tanzania, and connected by a tarmac road from both cities. From the Arusha-Moshi road, close to Usa River, the road to the Arusha NP main entrance goes north and uphill, and the tarmac road ends pretty soon.
Arusha NP by DC Loew: Mount Meru in clouds
The park is not huge, actually it is very small, but it contains several very different habitats:
- Small parts of grass land savannah, called little Serengeti. Here you can see bushbucks, giraffe, zebra, warthog – we even spotted a leopard there, but that was the first daylight leopard sighting in five years, as everybody assured us
- The rain forrest around the slopes of Mount Meru and the Ngurdoto crater. Here you can encounter the rare colobus monkeys, several species of vervet monkeys, and a lot of birds species.
- The Momella lakes with their green, grassy land between them, loads of giraffe, antelopes, hippos and flamingos. you can even make a canoe trip on the lakes.
- The montane area around Mount Meru, Africas fourth highest mountain, with flowers you only find on high altitudes where there is plenty of water. It is absolutely worth the time and money, to organise a two-hour walking safari in this area, you only have to be aware of the buffalos, and there is an armed ranger coming with you.
Arusha NP by DC Loew: The Ngurdoto Crater
For safari photography the park gives you some options: green landscapes, birds, colobus monkeys, and giraffes. There is plenty of giraffes roaming through the area, and they are not very shy, so you should have the chance to make some shots, here.
There is a huge birdlife in all parts of Arusha NP. As there are no lions around, you have the chance to meet lots of birds around the very nice picnic places the park administration is providing. The Momela Lakes are only of shallow water, so there is plenty of water – birds around. In the rain forest you have the chance to encounter Giant Hornbills.
In the rain forest taking pictures is very tricky – a challenging light and shadow scenario in a mix of one million greens, thus causing a complex situation for focusing on the colobus monkeys, which are hiding in the trees. If you are patient and lucky, the monkeys seem to lose their shyness and come pretty close to you – but mostly they keep their distance, and are even hiding when you aim with your camera towards them. I suggest a high ISO setting, at least 800. And a lens not shorter than 400mm.
Colobus monkey, Arusha NP, by DC Loew
Inside the park, there is one upmarket lodge, and the state run Momela lodge. Here it is where they shot the movie “Hatari” with John Wayne, and for a tip the staff can show you around and lead to the Dukes chalet!
Outside the park and in nereby Usa River are plenty of very nice lodges in all price segments, from Usa river it is roughly a 15-minute ride. From Arusha it is around 45 minutes.
Climbing Mount Meru, you have to enter the park, climbs to the summit can be arranged in three or four day treks. Climbing Mt. Meru can be easily combined with a trek on Kilimanjaro or a northern circuit safari.The best view you can have to the Kili is from top of Mount Meru, best time to try this: between December to February.
If you want advise on safari companies or want to trek Meru or Kilimanjaro, please contact me.
Closest International Airport: Kilimanjaro. (KLM, Condor, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Kenya Airways, Precision Air fly there)
Arusha NP rain forest by DC Loew