Usambara Mountains – located 9 hours (491 km) southeast of Arusha, the Usambaras consist of two mountain blocks; the smaller is the East Usambaras lying closer to the coast with slightly higher rainfall. This block is less populated and its primary attraction is the Amani Nature Reserves, approached from Muheza, with its botanical garden, butterfly farming, tea & spice plantations. The West Usambaras are separated from the East by a valley and are approached via the district centre of Lushoto.
The Usambara Mountains, situated in the north eastern part of Tanzania, are known for their pleasant climate, beautiful viewpoints and fertile slopes. Favored by the Germans and English during colonial times, the area is rich in historical buildings from the period. Excursions, which take half day or less, will include hiking and visits to Wasambaa villages, where visitors may have a glimpse of daily life of the local people.
Tarangire National Park – located three hours (140 km) southwest of Arusha, Tarangire National Park deserves much more and should be added to any Tanzanian eco-tourist itinerary for two reasons: First, not only does Tarangire boast a variety of wildlife as exotic as its landscape, but the park is also home to Tanzania’s largest population of African elephants. Second, Tarangire is one of the few places in the world – besides Madagascar, Australia and a few other African spots – where you find plenty of Baobab trees; the species found in Tanzania is Adansonia digitata, the largest of all eight baobab species in the world.
Selous Game Reserve – located 17 hours (1,000 km) south of Arusha, Selous is Africa’s oldest and biggest game reserve, and one of its last great wilderness areas. Measuring twice the size of Switzerland, it is the largest protected wildlife sanctuary in Africa and is widely accredited as being the most pristine wilderness. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has long been renowned for having more wild dog, elephant, lion, hippo and buffalo than any other game reserve in the world. Species commonly seen are bushbucks, red and blue duikers, eland, hartebeest, hyena, kipspringer, impala, giraffe, oryx, reedbuck, waterbuck and zebra.
The bird life in Selous is extensive and the 400 species recorded include the globally threatened wattle crane and the corncrake. Black rhinos are close to extinction, but can occasionally be seen in Selous. The topography of the Game Reserve varies from rolling savannah woodlands, grassland plains and rocky outcrops intersected by the wide Rufiji and Ruaha Rivers. A major draw is Selous’ relative lack of tourist congestion in comparison with Tanzania’s northern parks.
Ngorongoro Crater – located 4 hours (191 km) west of Arusha, this is a deep volcanic crater, the largest unflooded and unbroken caldera in the world. About 20 km across, 600 meters deep, and 300 sq. km in area, the Ngorongoro Crater is a breathtaking natural wonder. The Ngorongoro Crater is also part of a protected area that also includes the Serengeti Plains and the Nothern Highland Forest Reserve. That entire area was accorded the status of a World Heritage Site, and listed as one of the International Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Reserve Programme.
Due to the enclosed nature of the Crater, it has vitually formed its own ecosystem. Besides the stunning scenery, one of the main attractions of this area is the variety of flora and fauna found in a remarkably compact area all year round. In the Southwest corner, there is the Lerai Forest, which is mainly comprised of yellow fever trees (a member of the acacia family). To the north of the forest is a shallow soda lake called Lake Magadi, and to the east, you will find Gorigor Swamp and the Ngoitokitok Springs (where pods of hippos can be found). The north of the Crater is, on the whole, much drier and consists of the open grasslands, which characterizes the Crater floor (this is where the majority of the resident game resides).
Kahawa Shambani Afrika Coffee Tour (Uru West Village, Moshi Rural District, Kilimanjaro region) – located 2 ½ hours east of Arusha, just south of the Mt. Kilimanjaro Park, tourists can take part in this coffee tour (conducted by the farmers themselves). Visitors will come across a coffee farm, be able to pick coffee berries, hear a lecture about organic coffee farming and “fair trade” standards, as well as learn the process of coffee production from beans to cup. For more info on this tour, visitors can go to: http://kilimanculturaltourism.com
Meserani Snake Park (Duka Bova) – for those fascinated with snakes and reptiles, a Meserani Snake Park tour is a must for your visit! Located 20 km west of Arusha (on the way to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro center), you’ll have the chance to see some of the most dangerous snakes in the world, such as a Black and Green Mamba, Egyptian Cobra, Puff Adders and much more. That’s not all ─ you can even hold a real live snake! Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to see rare snakes and reptiles most people will never have the opportunity to lay eyes on.
Marangu Waterfalls (Mt. Kilimanjaro area) — with 150 meters in height, this is considered the highest waterfall in the Kilimanjaro region. In the local dialect, “Marangu” means “a place with too many water streams” – noting the abundance of water in that area. Within these waterfalls, if you want to swim in chilly waters, don’t forget to bring a bathing suit –this area is safe for swimming.
Note: Due to its attitude, the village of Marangu enjoys a much cooler and humid climate than many parts of Africa. The local community has taken advantage of this by making a modest living producing coffee & bananas. Tourists can see the entire process of collecting, roasting and grinding coffee in the village. Local famers can show you how. Afterwards, visitors can sample the locally-produced coffee – said to be among the best brewed anywhere in the world.
Lake Manyara National Park — located 126 km west of Arusha (on the way to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti), Lake Manyara National Park is worth a stop in its own right (but only as part of a safari group – given the wildlife in the area). Its ground water forests, bush plains, baobab strewn cliffs, and algae-streaked hot springs offer incredible ecological variety in a small area, rich in wildlife and incredible numbers of birds.
The alkaline soda of Lake Manyara is home to an incredible array of bird life that thrives on its brackish waters. Pink flamingo stoop and graze by the thousands colourful specks against the grey minerals of the lake shore. Yellow-billed storks swoop and corkscrew on thermal winds rising up from the escarpment, and herons flap their wings against the sun-drenched sky. Even reluctant bird-watchers will find something to watch and marvel at within the national park.
Lake Manyara’s famous tree-climbing lions are another reason to pay a visit to this park (once again, as part of a protected safari group). The only kind of their species in the world, they make the ancient mahogany and elegant acacias their home during the rainy season, and are a well-known but rather rare feature of the northern park.
Lake Duluti – this is a crater lake in the Arusha region of Tanzania, on the eastern edge of the eastern branch of the Great Rift Valley. It is located in Arumeru District near the town of Tengeru and is 14 km from Arusha city.
The Lake provides the perfect habitat for water birds, and Duluti is said to have up to 130 different species. The most common birds that can be seen include grey herons, fish eagles, cormorants, ospreys, egrets and kingfishers. The lake has abundant fish proven by many groups of cormorants that hang out together to fish. Many locals come to the lake at night to fish, which of course is making competition for food among the wild animals harder. For those who want to, you need a permit to fish…
Lake Chala – this eco-tourist destination is not far from the border with Kenya, and is located about three hours (130 km) east of Arusha by car. It is the perfect choice for those who want to relax by adding a bit of walking around this crater lake. Visitors can enjoy the tranquility of the place and if visiting in the right time of the year, herds of elephants will keep you company in the distance.