Arusha National Park

Mount Meru

Volcanoes erupted to make the dramatic terrain of Arusha National Park in Tanzania, just east of the huge fault known as the Great Rift Valley. They spewed fire and lava into the air 20 million years ago, and then collapsed into two big calderas, the Ngurdoto and Meru craters, which mark the western and eastern boundaries of the 52-square-mile park. Depressions in boiling mud became the Momela Lakes. Today, these lakes are fed by underground streams that leach salt from the alkaline soil and support algae, a few small fish, and thousands of birds, especially grebes and flamingo. Over 400 species of birds, elephant, buffalo, baboon, warthog, black and white Colobus monkey and antelopes are all found in this ecosystem. The visit truly is an unforgettable experience.

Mount Meru remains a volcano, though dormant since its last conniption in 1910, a lava-streaked peak that rises to 14,979 feet encased by lush forests and bare rock. The fifth highest mountain in Africa, Mt. Meru is favored by climbers who want to avoid the heavier foot traffic on Mt. Kilimanjaro less than 50 miles away.

Mt. Meru at 4,566m is the second highest mountain in Tanzania. It is one of Africa's highest and most beautiful volcanoes. It has a circular base some 20km across at 2000m, where it rises steeply above the foothills and plains. The mountain is an almost perfect cone with an internal crater, or caldera, surrounded by a steep wall of cliffs. At about 2500m, the wall has broken away, so the top half of the mountain is shaped like a giant horseshoe, with the opening on the east side of the cone and the highest point directly opposite. The cliffs of the inner wall below the summit are over 1500m high, which makes them among the tallest in Africa. Inside the crater more recent volcanic eruptions have created a subsidiary peak called the Ash Cone.

The ascend to the summit is quite steep, the route to the summit passes over streams, through parkland, montane forest, a giant heather zone and moorland. The summit is reached by a narrow, barren ridge, which provides stunning views of the Ash Cone lying several thousand feet below in the crater. Weather permitting, Kilimanjaro can be seen in the West.

Day 1: Drive to Momela Park Gate (1,500m). Walk through game filled Parkland up to Miriakamba Hut (2,470m) for hot dinner and overnight (3 hours walking).

Day 2: After breakfast follow the path that passes through fine forests and heather to the Saddle Hut, at 3,500m (3 hours walking). An ascent of little Meru is possible in the afternoon, then back to Saddle Hut for dinner and overnight.

Day 3: A very early start after breakfast will take you fist to a superb view point on the crater rim and then onto an airy ridge which lead up to the summit, at 4,566m. Return to Miriakamba Hut for light lunch. Walk back to the Park gate (2 hours). Drive back to Keys Hotel for hot shower, dinner and overnight.

Extra day: This will be spent at the Saddle Hut, allowing you to take a little more time and relax a bit as you climb - there's less rush.