‘A gem amongst parks’
Sir Julian Huxley
A charming and often over-looked park within easy reach of the centre of Arusha, this park offers an ideal day-trip, good walking and excellent mountain-climbing (a day-trip walking the lower slopes or a three-day hike to the summit of Mount Meru). The park has three distinct zones: the Ngurdoto Crater, the Momela Lakes and Mount Meru.
Area: 137 sq kms
Location: Surrounding Mount Meru
Altitude: 1,525-4,565 m
Vegetation: Dense forest or thicket made up of olive, Nuxia congesta and pencil cedar. Bamboo forests are also found at higher elevations.
Fauna: Black and white colobus monkey, leopard, declining numbers of elephant and hippos. The Momela lakes support flamingo, wildfowl and Eurasian migrants.
Birds: Over 400 species have been recorded.
Activities: Walking, hiking, mountain-climbing and ornithology.
The Ngurdoto Crater
The 15-million-year-old Ngurdoto Crater was formed when molten rock was forced to the Earth’s surface by super-heated steam, which slowly built up a core around its vent, imprisoning gases from the Earth’s core. Eventually, the trapped gases exploded and the present crater was formed. Today the former volcano is a steep-sided bowl three kms in diameter and its lush swamps and riverine forest are home to rhino, elephant, buffalo, baboon warthog, olive baboon and the black and white colobus monkey. The moist and misty atmosphere provides an ideal habitat for mosses, ferns, lichens and orchids, which give way to mahogany and olive trees and wild date palms.
The Momela Lakes
The seven Momela Lakes (El Kekhotioit, Kusare, Small Momlela, Rishateni, Big Momela, Tulusia and Lekandiro) were born when water filled the depressions left after volcanic mud and rubble spewed out from Mount Meru, and lies approximately ten kms north of Ngurdoto Gate. Fed by underground streams, the lakes are all alkaline, but thanks to the different species of algae that live in them, they present extraordinarily beautiful differences of colour and exhibit strikingly different types of birdlife. Rishateni, for instance is a popular haunt of lesser flamingo. There are 380 species of birds living on the lakes, to include: little grebe, African pochard, ibis, heron, egrets and Egyptian geese.
An extinct volcano, at 4, 566 m, Mount Meru is the fifth highest mountain in Africa, and offers one of her most rewarding climbs. It was formed when a massive explosion some quarter-of-a-million-years ago blew out its whole eastern side, leaving a distinctive asymmetric caldera in its wake. Within the crater is an ash cone made up of red and grey gravels.