Arusha National Park
After arriving the night before at Kilimanjaro International Airport, we spent our first day in Tanzania exploring Arusha National Park and Momella Lakes. This park, located some fifty miles west of Mount Kilimanjaro, is 53 square miles of prime bigger-than-life vistas. Morning light on some days might give you a spectacular opportunity to catch Kilimanjaro standing before the sun, but weather was not to be our best friend throughout our days here.
While the park is not as well known or visited as some of the other Tanzania parks, it was a great introduction to Africa. After the long flights from the west coast of America, it was nice to be able to have a leisurely breakfast at the lodge, and then it was only a short ride to the park. I have to say that it was wise to have planned an easy first day in case there had been any travel issues which could have delayed our arrival.
We saw many of the expected animals here: giraffe, cape buffalo, warthog, zebra, black-and-white colobus monkey and many bird species. I even spotted a couple of hippos in a far-away pond; the guide first told me they were rocks, but then he saw them move! We encountered very few other people, unlike some of the other parks we visited. Our first animal encounter was with giraffes, and I one of my very first photos of the trip is also one of my favorites; I love the giraffe peering at me with the soft foliage around it. Wow, we were in Africa watching real wild animals!
We had a leisurely drive through parts of the park, looking at more animals. There was a small museum with displays of local wildlife, both stuffed and skeletons, that we stopped to see. I didn’t have any issues with jet lag during the day but it was good to get out and stretch our legs.
Arusha National Park is one of the best places to see flamingos in Tanzania, and we saw thousands of them along the shores of Big Momella Lake. There were areas of black volcanic rocks where the pink Lesser Flamingos were wading near the road, and a large section of the far shoreline was covered with flamingos. There was an overlook where we stopped and as we could get out of our vehicle, it was the one place on our trip where a monopod or tripod could have been handy for flight shots.
The lodge was very nice and is also a rescue center for wildlife. They have a large pond near the rooms that attracted local birds, and we were invited to see the staff feed the porcupines. The meals were excellent in the partially-open dining area with a view of the grounds.Photo right: View toward Mount Meru. Click for full size in lightbox.
The season we visited was unusual for northern Tanzania’s equatorial weather, in that the rains had already begun in February. The owner of the lodge we stayed at apologized for the unusual weather! It was very green but some of the roads were very muddy. We could barely see Mount Meru even though it is in the park; it is the second tallest peak in Tanzania and the fifth highest in all of Africa. We had to eat our lunch in the vehicle in the park as we had a downpour at lunchtime. Many of the animals were active and overcast conditions meant we could photograph all day. I don’t remember that we had many bugs, but we used bug spray and I had treated some of my clothing with permethrin before leaving home.
Some Favorite Photos from Arusha National Park
Click on any photo in the gallery below to enter a manual slideshow containing full images and descriptions and social sharing links. All photos by Barbara Swanson.