Published Nation newspaper 16 December 2017
Above: Elephant at entrance of Lake Arusha Naional Park
Copyright Rupi MangatArusha’s a fascinating city on the foothills of Mt Meru –Africa’s fifth highest mountain at (14,968 ft). A dormant volcano it’s a stunning backdrop to the city and a great mountain to explore.
After a sumptuous lunch at Lake Duluti Serena by the cusp of its crater lake from which it takes its name, John Malley the guide and l stroll through the gardens of the hotel to the lake. It’s scenic – a lake in a crater by the towering perfect peak of Mount Meru. A cloud sits on the tip of it like a cap. In the late afternoon, the waders are all around – squacco herons, cormorants, Eygptian geese and on the ground a monitor lizard swimming away. It’s a refreshing walk through the forest of sky-high trees of Cordia Africana and figs.
As the sun settles, long ribbons of white egrets fly over the lake to settle on the trees for the night. And in the morning after a healthy breakfast, Felix Ogembo of Serena suggests a morning game drive into Arusha National Park since it’s a few minutes’ drive away.
It’s an uphill road into the mountain park where a life-size statue of an elephant guards the gate in the ever-present gaze of the peak.
The park is lush. Waterbuck amble to the swamp as the morning mist clears. Giraffes and zebra wander around browsing – it’s a real Eden. A reedbuck stares though the thick vines and baboons dart across the road.
“We had black rhinos here until the 1970s,” informs Zacharia Mbuya, the driver-guide from Routes Kilimanjaro. “But they were hunted out by poachers.”
The higher we climb the cooler it gets. And in the lush green, little lakes emerge – the famous Momella lakes that are fed by underground springs. There are six of them – some that are as old as the last eruption of the mountains.
The smaller lake is laced with the pink of flamingos and it’s a striking color surrounded by the dry crust of the lake shore.
Past the lakes, we’re in a highland forest with a troop of colobus monkeys foraging, their white-tipped tails hanging.
As they vanish deeper into the forest we make our way back to the lodge and suddenly without any warning, there’s a herd of four male elephants by the road. I could never have imagined elephants so close to the city but here they are – foraging. The younger two males playfully push each other around, rubbing their heads against each other and twining their trunks. And then a few feet from us they cross the road.
“Arusha National Park forms one ecosystem with Amboseli National Park in Kenya and Kilimanjaro National Park,” tells Mbuya. “So they migrate between the three parks. At one time, they had become rare in Arusha National Park but our president (Magafuli) has really cracked down on poachers and so we’re seeing more of them here.”
To Arusha National Park
It’s very affordable for Kenyans – Check out www.tanzaniaparks.go.tz
You can hike the mountain with a permit and visit the bordering Ngurdoto Crater.
Lake Duluti Serena on the slopes of the mountain was once a coffee farm and now set like a traditional village in beautiful garden by the lake where rafting is possible.