A popular day trip for travellers staying in Arusha is to visit the Arusha National Park. (It is an easy 40-minute drive from Arusha) One of the smaller parks in Tanzania, Arusha National Park has great views of Mount Meru and its ash cone at 1,829 metres. The main attractions in the park are the Ngurdoto Crater, the Momela Lakes and the highland forests.
The spectacular Ngurdoto Crater has steep, rocky cliffs which enclose a marshy floor where herds of buffalo and warthog are found. The Momela Lakes hosts thousands of flamingo and other resident and migrant waterfowl.
A morning walking safari with an armed ranger followed by an afternoon game drive with a picnic is a popular way to see the Arusha National Park. Black-and-white colobus monkeys are seen here as well as buffalo, hippo, giraffe, zebra, vervet monkeys, antelope and the occasional leopard.
Climbing Mount Meru is a popular pastime for visitors to Arusha National Park. The fifth highest mountain in Africa at 4,566 metres - Mount Meru dominates the park's horizon. The lower slopes offer a relaxing day hike on paths to waterfalls and rivers. The three day hike to the summit of Mount Meru is a good acclimatisation for Kilimanjaro.
Cultural Heritage Centre sells crafts and artifacts from many tribes, both local and from other parts of Africa. The selection is massive and several kinds of masks, traditional weapons, wood carvings and tanzanite are available for sale. Large items can be shipped anywhere in the world.
The items are of very good quality and the great variety makes it a 'one stop shop' for all souvenir shopping. Travellers can haggle for better prices at Cultural Heritage Centre and are usually successful. The centre is a great place to visit after your Tanzanian safari as it will relieve the inconvenience of having to carry souvenirs along during the safari.
The National Natural History Museum, in Arusha, is housed in the Old German Boma, built by the Germans in 1886 for administration and communication purposes. The Natural History Museum features two permanent exhibitions; one on human evolution and the other on entomology. Temporary exhibitions are also held.
The Laetoli Footprints are a major highlight of the museum. The Laetoli footprints are most likely Australopithecus afarensis, an early human whose fossils were found in the same sediment layer. The entire footprint trail is almost 27 m long, 3.6 million years old and includes about 70 early human footprints.
Paleontologist Mary Leakey and team members stumbled upon animal tracks cemented in the volcanic ash in 1976, but it wasn't until 1978 that Paul Abell joined Leakey's team and found the footprint trail referred to now as "The Laetoli Footprints".
The Maasai market happens once a week on Tuesdays. Hundreds of local people from all over the Arusha area gather to buy and sell fruits, vegetable, clothes, tools and clothing. For visitors the shoes made from tires is a popular purchase. The shoes will be custom-made and visitors will be able to watch as the shoemaker carves the rubber and hammers the nails into the shoes.
The locals are very friendly and love to chat to foreigners. The Maasai cattle market also is part of this market. Dozens of cattle are traded between communities and sold to vendors for meat. The Maasai Market is a wonderful opportunity to meet the locals and purchase local produce and items.
Visit the only Tanzanite museum in the world. The Tanzanite Museum is run by the Arusha Tanzania Tanzanite Foundation. Tanzanite is the blue/purple variety of the mineral zoisite which was discovered in the Meralani Hills of Northern Tanzania in 1967. Tanzanite gems are said to be ten-times rarer than gold.
The Tanzanite museum boasts an auditorium capable of seating 25 people and has the latest audio-visual technology. 'The Tanzanite experience' comprises of a video screening on the history of Tanzanite mining from the discovery of the rare gemstone in the hills near Arusha to the present day, as well as a display of rough and cut gems and items made from Tanzanite, information on local geology and a laboratory.