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A cloud covers the top of Mount Meru, and the jungle area surrounding the peak is lush and green from rain in Arusha, Tanzania view larger image

Arusha is the safari capital of the world, the jumping-off point for the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Kilimanjaro. In the shadow of Mount Meru, where lush forest intersects grassy savanna, Arusha sits within an agricultural region famed for coffee and tea. Originally a German settlement, Arusha today is a lively city with an international flair. Arusha is noted for handcrafts, and the Cultural Heritage Center boasts an array of carvings, paintings, batiks and baskets.

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A couple of African trees are silhouetted by the setting son and the orange filled sky in Arusha, Tanzania view image gallery

The Safari Experience

Arusha is an ideal place to relax and acclimate before your safari. Browse the famous Cultural Heritage Center for arts and crafts, or lounge at your hotel, whether it’s on a working coffee farm with lushly landscaped grounds, or set on a river amidst flowering gardens. While Arusha National Park cannot replace Tanzania’s larger, iconic national parks like the Serengeti, this 212-square-mile preserve provides a nice introduction to a Tanzanian safari within a short time and in an easily accessible package. The view is dominated by the nearly 15,000-foot Mount Meru. Hiking in the foothills of the ancient volcano reveals forests densely populated with 400 bird species and plenty of monkeys. A unique sight in the park is Fig Tree Arch, an enormous tree with a gap in the middle large enough for cars to drive through.

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Several cape buffalo with huge curving horns survey the camera with interest, baby cape buffalo licks lips in Arusha, Tanzania view image gallery


Lesser known than the famed Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and other parks and reserves of Tanzania, Arusha National Park is actually a pleasant surprise, and rich in wildlife. Leopard and spotted hyena are possible sightings in this small sanctuary, though elephants are quite rare and lions are not seen here. In the wooded savanna approaching the base of Mount Meru, Maasai giraffe and Cape buffalo are often found. The park’s montane forest is the only location in northern Tanzania where black-and-white colobus monkeys are found. A variety of other monkeys, Burchell’s zebra and warthog are also at home here. Ngurdoto Crater’s grassland lies to the southwest of the park, and the shallow alkaline Momella Lakes in the northeast are seasonally home to many waterfowl and wading birds such as large flocks of pink lesser flamingo. The Narina trogon and bar-tailed trogon are two highlights within the forests.

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A group of Lillian's Lovebirds perch on a twisting branch of a tree with their vibrant colored feathers in Arusha, Tanzania view image gallery

How to Include Arusha in Your Safari Itinerary

Recommended Number of Nights

Nature Travelers: 1 night at the beginning of your safari
Photographers: 1 night at the beginning of your safari
Families: 1-2 night at the beginning of your safari
Active Travelers: 1 night at the beginning of your safari

Other Regions to Include

Arusha is the classic jumping-off point for a northern Tanzania safari. Add a second night in Arusha to acclimate after your travels, and consider a visit to Arusha National Park, which can be an enriching addition if you have a morning or afternoon to fill. From Arusha, it’s an easy drive to Tarangire or Lake Manyara to see grassy plains, mystical baobabs, large herds of elephant and plains game and tree-climbing lions. Ngorongoro Crater is a fabled safari experience, the largest unbroken caldera in the world, chock-full of predators, rhino, antelope and more, while nearly adjacent is Serengeti National Park, home to the world’s largest land migration. If your focus is the remote western and southern reaches of Tanzania, go chimp-trekking in the Mahale Mountains, and view massive herds in untouched tracts of land from Katavi to Ruaha and Selous.

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