Believed by some Christians to have been the landing point of Noah’s Ark, Mount Meru is famous for being second best to Kilimanjaro. Often thought of as a warm up for the larger, more famous mountain that is Africa’s highest. However, Mount Meru is the fifth highest mountain in Africa, and it dominates the Arusha National Park’s horizon.
The Eastern footslopes and peaks of Mount Meru are protected by the Arusha National Park boundaries and give some of the best views of Kilimanjaro. But, don’t be mistaken, Mount Meru is itself one of Africa’s hiking gems. Its location next to Africa’s most famous mountain means it gets overlooked, making it a lesser travelled trail without the tourist hoards but with just as much challenge and experience as Kilimanjaro.
Although dormant, the volcano that is Mount Meru is still active but last erupted in 1910. It is distinguished by the massive piece of missing rock that was exploded out of existence during a major Mt. St. Helens style eruption long ago. Its volcanic nature makes Mount Meru distinct in that the scenery is laden with all you would expect of a land made barren by explosions and lava. However, its location at the heart of Arusha National Park mean that a Mount Meru climb is dotted with safari style wildlife spotting and stunning views. So much so that climbing Mount Meru requires an armed guard to protect you from large game.
Forested savannah land begins the ascent of Mount Meru where buffalos and giraffes are frequently spotted. Climbing further up leads into a denser forest dripping with Spanish moss, before reaching open heath land spiked with giant lobelias. Everlasting flowers cling to the alpine desert, as delicately-hoofed klipspringers mark the hike’s progress. Astride the craggy summit, Kilimanjaro stands unveiled, blushing in the sunrise, and a full awe-inspiring capture of Arusha National Park.
The Momella Route, between 14 and 19km, is the primary and only official route to the Mount Meru summit today. This route starts at the Momella Gate at 1,500m and ascends to one of two tracks to Miriakamba Hut (2,514m) with the longer track allowing for scenery including waterfalls and wildlife. From the Miriakamba Hut, you take a 4 km trail through forest up to the Saddle Hut at 3,566m where you can either summit Little Meru to 3,820m or head for the Mount Meru Summit. On the way up to the summit from Saddle Hut, the first notable bald area you’ll reach is Rhino Point where you can get amazing views of the summit and the inner crater walls, providing there are no clouds.
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Mount Meru Flora & Fauna
The Meru Crater, from the West of Arusha National Park channels the Jekkumia River through the Park from its rim where Mount Meru lies whereas the Momella Lakes in the North-East host a colourful array of algae that provide an ideal environment for wading birds. To the South-East, the Ngurdoto Crater harbours a lush grassland, adding to the close nit diversity of a park that can be seen in less than a day.
The most common of the big game in Arusha National Park include Giraffe, Buffalo, and Zebra who you will definitely find with a good safari operator. Black and white colobus monkeys are also quite common.
While climbing Mount Meru and touring the Park, you will also get to see a wide variety of over 400 bird species: Arusha National Park is renowned as one of Tanzania’s best ornithological locations. Common species include Hadeda ibis, Greater Flamingo, Lesser flamingo, Silvery-cheeked hornbill, White-necked raven, and Helmeted guineafowl. In the forested areas, birdlife is prolific with a highlight being the narina and bar-tailed trogons, whilst starlings abound in a range of species. Even more variety can be found with pelicans, little grebe, herons, ducks and waders being common. Above the Ngurdoto Crater, Verreaux Eagles and other raptors can bee seen gliding for prey.
The forests also play host to dik-diks which are rather common, but if you are lucky you might find the larger red duiker.
Mount Meru Location & Map
Mount Meru, is a dormant volcano located 70km West of the more famous Kilimanjaro Mountain. It lies as the centre piece of the National Park in the Northern-Eastern Arusha region of Tanzania: it is the country’s second highest mountain standing at 4,566 meters.
Mount Meru is accessible from Arusha National Park best reached from the Kilimanjaro International Airport just 35km away which can connect to the Arusha regional airport. The city of Arusha is only few kilometres South-West and Moshi is 60km away. However, Arusha National Park’s main gate is 25km East of Arusha which is the ideal place to locate yourself for a safari into the Park and/or climb Mount Meru, only 40 minute drive away. The Park is relatively small and can be visited in the course of half a day compared to the other larger national parks, but it lies right along the axis of a 300km chain of parks that include the Serengeti, Kilimanjaro, and Ngorongoro Crater parks.
Mount Meru is best climbed between June-February although it may rain in November.
The best views of Kilimanjaro come between December-February.
Ol Doinyo Lengai
Kilimanjaro National Park
Read More From Our Blog On Mount Meru
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Infographic & Map of Kilimanjaro National Park