Exploring Arusha and some of the top sights of the city and booking our hike to Kilimanjaro on the trip The Great Eastern Summer.
The city with over half a million in population is the capital of the Arusha Region and a hub for tourists. Right at the base of Mount Meru, the major attractions of the country, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Tarangire National Park, and Mount Kilimanjaro, are all within driving distance.
The city is also important in terms of East African diplomacy. It hosts the East African Community and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. UNICEF and the UN also have offices here.
Arriving from Dar es Salaam, we were picked up by and driven to our hotel, Mount Meru Hotel. After recuperating a bit we requested some information about climbing Kilimanjaro. We wanted to start a tour tomorrow, but had nothing booked yet. The concierge would organize for a tour operator to meet with us after we explored Arusha.
Mount Meru Hotel arranged a driver to take us around. First we drove by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and some UN buildings. We then visited the number one tourist attraction in the city.
National History Museum
Opened in 1987 this museum has exhibits on human evolution and entomology. I found out that they have some intense ants in Africa… Parts of the museum were just pictures with explanations so not as interesting.
After the exhibit, we found a taxidermy shop which was ironically more interesting than some of the exhibits.
There is also an old building started by Germans colonialists.
Behind the outer wall of the museum is a small market and art gallery.
We drove to the Maasai market area where tourists were brought by the busload to buy souvenirs. They had masks and sculptures made of ebony and redwood as well as handicrafts, paintings, and even Maasai shields. Of course I purchased my country tourist shirts here.
We headed back to the hotel but stopped at this second hand shop where they had jackets for sale. But we didn’t buy any after our driver called and told us that the tour group would provide jackets.
So back at the hotel the concierge introduced us to a tour operator who in the end gave some pretty high quotes for the climb up Kilimanjaro. At $3,600 per person his quotes were triple what we saw online for a similar tour.
Bill and I had our work cut out for ourselves. After dinner, we started calling different operators we found online. It was already 9 p.m. and hampering our efforts was the fact that it was July 7th, Saba Saba Day, a national holiday.
With our research we found most people book their tours months (sometimes half a year) in advance, but we were confident we could find something. After calling over eight tour operators we got through to a few groups and decided to go forward with Nature Beauties, a recommendation by Lonely Planet.
The owner, who we spoke to, was very friendly and accommodating. We confirmed a five day hike of Kilimanjaro for $1,000 per person. We would meet tomorrow at 8 a.m. to discuss the hike and start our preparations.
Glad we managed to get a tour in such a short amount of time, we rested up knowing we had a long day tomorrow and would start our climb of Kilimanjaro.