Arusha National Park
Area: 552 sq km (212 sq miles)
Arusha National Park, often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbours, is in fact a treasure, a rich tapestry of habitats, teeming with animals and birds. From the lush swamps of the Ngurdoto Crater to the tranquil beauty of the Momela Lakes and the rocky alpine heights of Mt Meru, the terrain of the park is as varied as it is interesting.
Zebras graze on the park’s red grasslands, and leopards lurk next to waterfalls in the shadowy forest. More than 400 species of bird, both migrant and resident, can be found in Arusha National Park alongside rare primates, such as the black-and-white colobus monkey.
The rewarding climb up Mt Meru passes through forests of dripping Spanish moss and rises to open heath, spiked with giant lobelia plants. Delicate Klipspinger antelope watch the progress of hikers from the top of huge boulders, and everlasting flowers cling to the alpine desert underfoot. Once astride the craggy summit, the reward is a sight of neighbouring Mt Kilimanjaro, breathtaking in the sunrise.
The best time to visi Arusha National Park is during the dry season from July to November, or after the short rains from December to March. The best months to climb Mt Meru are June through to February, with the best views of Mt Kilimanjaro seen from December to February. The park lies just 25 km east of Arusha and is a rewarding day trip from Arusha or Moshi.