Thursday, 4 October 2012 2:07 PM
Sarah Gibbons discovers the ideal base for a safari day trip to Arusha National Park in Tanzania – Serena Mountain Village
The tranquil grounds of Serena Mountain Village seem a world away from the colourful chaos of Moshi, the gateway for those hoping to summit Mt Kilimanjaro and my previous destination.
A haven of leafy gardens and thatched stone cottages on the shores of Lake Duluti, the hotel is designed to echo the traditional coffee farm which originally stood on its site.
Having just conquered the highest peak in Africa – Mt. Kilimanjaro at 5,895m – a short trip to Arusha was the perfect way to relax (oh how I looked forward to a comfortable bed and a decent power shower!) and to see some of East Africa’s diverse wildlife at Arusha National Park before flying to exotic Zanzibar.
It may be one of the smallest safari parks in East Africa at 212 square miles and overshadowed by the ever-popular Serengeti and Ngorongoro national parks, but it is considered one of the most beautiful and topographically-diverse national parks in northern Tanzania.
The undulating, volcanic landscape, dominated by the cone-shaped Mt. Meru, is home to over 400 species of bird as well as numerous giraffe, elephant, zebra, water buffalo, waterbuck and several species of monkey – including the black and white colobus monkey, the mascot of the park. Sadly, due to poaching, rhinos no longer roam the park (and lions long since absent), but there’s more than enough wildlife to keep safari-goers snap-happy.
What’s more, the park is a mere half-hour drive from Kilimanjaro Airport, so it can easily be explored in a day trip.
Serena Mountain Village was the ideal base for our mini safari excursion. We stayed in one of the pretty ‘cottages’, grouped in clusters around the landscaped grounds, complete with a spacious living area with marble floors, dark mahogany furniture and swathes of muslin nets separating the large comfortable beds. The bathroom also proved to be roomy (with a rain shower – hooray!). French doors opened up to a view of the scenic Lake Duluti, surrounded by wooded areas and bright orange flowers dotted around the gardens.
First on the agenda was our half-day tour to Arusha National Park. We were joined in the morning by our guide for the day and after we had collected our lunch boxes (made by the hotel) we were off, cameras at-the-ready.
Before we had even entered the interior of the park, we saw a troupe of olive baboons, one with a tiny infant clinging to its back and a few moments later, the beautiful sight of the open jade-green grassland – dubbed ‘little Serengeti’ – dotted with grazing giraffe and herds of zebra. By the end of our tour we had also seen troupes of Blue monkeys, waterbuck, a striking red duiker, an adorable dik dik, water buffalo, flamingos and warthogs – to name but a few.
Our evening was spent up at the main building which boasted several rooms of cosy sofas, log fires and the hotel’s restaurant, which offered a set menu in the evenings as well as an extensive salad buffet and dessert table – enough to keep even the hungriest of safari-goers happy.
I dined on steaming vegetable soup, served with warm rolls, followed by a filet steak with a creamy mushroom sauce. Getting steadily less hungry, I still found room for a chocolate mousse and a healthy helping of fresh fruit from the salad buffet.
Tired from our day’s excitement we took to the living room to curl up by the fire, excited for our upcoming trip to Zanzibar in the morning. An excursion to Arusha had been perfect day trip after an action-packed week on Mt. Kilimanjaro, proving that you don’t have to devote a big chunk of your holiday to spotting some of East Africa’s wealth of wildlife.
By Sarah Gibbons
Arusha Mountain Village costs from $240 (£ 149) for a standard double room, including breakfast, a welcome drink and taxes.
Tour: A one-day safari, organised through the hotel, costs $200 (£ 124) for a full day; $180 (£ 112) for a half day. Entrance fees cost $35 (£ 22) per person. The hotel can organise a lunch box for $25 (£ 16).
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