Mount Meru Forest Reserve is one among the 22 plantations owned and managed by the Tanzania Forest Service Agency (TFS). Located in the Arusha region about 5-10 km from Moshi- Arusha- Nairobi highway Northern Side. The forest lies between 3015’-3018’ South and longitudes 36041’-36042’. Moreover, the forest borders the Arusha National Park to the North while all of the Southern parts border the local villages of Olgilai, Sura, Kilinga, Ngongongare, Sikila, Oldonyo sambu, Olmotonyi, and Timbolo.
Generally, the Climate of the Mount Meru Forest Reserve is characterized by relatively very low temperatures. The temperatures range from 15°C TO 28°C with very divergent wet and dry seasons. It has a temperature highland climate with dry winters. The area receives more precipitation and cooler temperatures due to the influence of Mount Meru besides being closer to the equator. It is also characterized by its bi-modal rainfall pattern with two rain seasons, one being the heavy rains named locally “Masika” and short rains named “Vuli”. The long rains shower between March and May, while short rains are often showering between November- December seasons. The dry season is between June- October. On the high elevation side and parts of the forest, locals grow bananas, Arabica coffee, potatoes, carrots, maize, beans, green beans, and a range of leafy vegetables.
The forest plantation lies between 1400m above sea level with the highest point being 2300m above sea level.
Mount Meru is a volcanic mountain formed many years ago. The last recorded eruption occurred in 1877(hence a dormant volcano). The slopes of the mountain are covered by a big pile of extrusive volcanic rocks. Lying on top of the eroded surface of the Precambrian metamorphic subterranean vault. The subterranean vault was completely covered by sediments consisting of volcanic materials that originated from mudflows and volcanic ashes that were deposited after eruptions. This created in the process a very fertile clay soil rich in montmorillonite, illite, and Kaolinite where today the forest has lush green vegetation on the slopes of the mountain.
Visiting Mount Meru Forest Reserve is such a wild experience, guides of the forest will brief you about the forest plantation and the community living around the area.
The tour starts at the tree nursery where visitors learn about various activities conducted by the Meru-Usa forest plantation from planting to harvesting of the forest trees for timber. Visitors will get an opportunity to participate in a tree planting project by planting a tree. You will then take a walk in the forest plantation for a short while and enter into a natural forest disappearing into the natural forest down to the river bed, and you will then ascend straight on the slopes of Sambasha hill that offers a panoramic view of the villages and Arusha city. On the way, there is a big chance of spotting black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, forest antelopes, singing forest birds, and beautiful flowers on the mountain. On top of the sambasha hill, you will learn beekeeping and enjoy the views with your drinks/ bites at the Sambasha picnic site.
The forest is also a host to one of the tallest waterfalls in the area. Starting from the Oldonyo Sapuk village. You will walk through a thick forest descending to the river valley for about 15 minutes. Follow the river bed upstream with some waterproof shoes or slippers straight to the waterfalls. Listen to hundreds of tails on what local people believe about the fall, locally named by Maasai ‘ NAVURA’. En route, you will have a chance to spot tonnes of bird species and a number of clever beautiful monkeys. In the falls you can swim if you would love to, the waters are pretty cold though.
The forest hosts a number of bird species. You will have an opportune time to identify and watch different kinds of birds. From highland forest bird species to seasonal migratory birds that visit the forest and nearby local farms. The melodious sound of birds and other insects will multiply your joy and increase your relaxation in a natural world of its own kind. Certainly, one of the most fascinating experiences is birds-watching, it can start from any point of interest depending on what will be the combination and time for the tour.
Spectacular picnic sites are available for those who bring their drinks and bush lunch. The sites are installed with clean and comfortable washrooms and other basic facilities for your adventure.
Explore the forest on 2 wheels bicycle. The cycling tour covers 10 – 15 km alongside the forest, on the southern part of Mount Meru Forest Reserve where one can see various primates such as baboons, monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys as well as various species of birds and flowers. Also, rides start from the main forest’s gates, enjoying the landscapes full of fresh and crispy air from the forest on your ride and then extend to the local village settlements and farms to learn local agricultural practices, the cycling ends up at the main gate of the forest as well.
Do you want to feel nature, allow your senses to absorb what nature offers, happier and rejuvenated? Join the Mount Meru Forest Reserve silent walk. The activity involves quite a silent walk through the forest and experiencing nature at its best, the experience has all the mental and physical benefits. Listen to the natural sounds and music of the surrounding nature, the melodious songs of the montane forest birds, the guttural utterings of the monkeys, and the whispers of the winds. Above all, breathe the crispy, fresh forest air and dive into the healing smell of beautiful flowers. Watch butterflies as they decorate the forest. Let your mind become peaceful and quiet, and sync yourself into nature.
Take your time to visit the local people, sing and dance with them, and learn about their life in a typical African style. The local guide will take lead you to a massive fig tree used by the Maasai as a holy worshiping site. Listen to stories about these majestic trees and learn how they give their offerings to their gods.
Subsequently, the tour proceeds to local farms, Maasai homes, herbalists, and midwives. They will spend their glorious time with you sharing their traditional knowledge of how they prescribe and identify the right medication to cure local people using local plants. Tour ends with a traditional lunch prepared by the Naramatisho Women group. However, the tour is also combined with visits to local schools to learn about their education systems as well as other community development projects.
Camping grounds around the forest gates are available for an overnight, safety is well observed, and modern toilet facilities are well available.
Mount Meru Forest Reserve & Eco-tourism coordination office is located 12 km North-west of Arusha town. A number of commuters (locally known as dala dala) ply the way from Arusha to Ngaramtoni. From Ngaramtoni one can take a taxi or walk through the forest road heading north for about 30 minutes to the Meru forest Ecotourism office.
Moreover, other visitors can access the forest through Sekei road, heading north to Olgilai village where an entrance gate has been installed. The entrance is 7kms from the Arusha clock tower and takes 10-20 minutes by private/hired taxis
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