Mount Meru is situated a mere 40 kilometers southwest from Kilimanjaro in the northern Arusha Park in Tanzania. Because Meru is so close to the famed Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, it is often literally overshadowed by its brother. Mount Meru is in no way an alternative to climbing Kilimanjaro, but make no mistake, Meru offers a very enjoyable climb, with the uniqueness of the best ridge walk in Africa. Meru can definitely hold its own as an extinct volcano.
It is the second highest mountain in the country, and considered to be the fourth highest mountain in Africa. The ascent is quite steep, so don’t think of it as tame mountain only placed there for a leisurely stroll. The routes will pass over streams and forests before you get to the barren narrow ridge at the top. The view from here is just stunning, and on a clear day, Kilimanjaro can be seen in the distance.
From the vantage point, the ash cone inside the crater can be seen several thousand feet below you. The foot slopes of the mountain are protected within Arusha Park, so you can expect unparalleled views of buffaloes and giraffes. The routes provide ample opportunity to spot the wildlife of the area, including the elegant and agile footed Klipspringer.
The park surrounding the mountain is worth mentioning simply because it offers its own visit-worthy attractions. It is the perfect place to rest your weary bones after a hard few days of climbing. Even if elephants are quite uncommon in the park, leopards and hyenas are often seen skulking around dusk and dawn. Giraffes and large herds of zebra can be seen frolicking in the grassy hills.
The best time to climb is during the colder months between June and September, but mountaineers tackle the routes between October and February as well. December through to February apparently offer the best views, but remember, Africa gets hot in the summer months between December and February, so be prepared. The official route to the summit starts at Momella Gate, and uses two tracks to the first hut, one being shorter than the other. Hikes from the gate can only commence between 9.00 am and 3.00pm as to avoid conflict with the wildlife.
As you can imagine, there are a considerable number of regulations that should be kept in mind when climbing to the peak for your own safety. As with most mountains in Africa, you are not allowed to climb Mount Meru solo. Park fees are payable, you need to at least make use of a guide’s service. Don’t be alarmed, the rate per day is very reasonable.
Accommodation along the trails are very simple and basic, but in an acceptable state of repair and comfort. Of course, you do not have to climb to the summit if you do not want to, but it is highly recommended if you have the strength to do so.
Chances are, if you are visiting Mount Meru, you will also be visiting Arusha National mark. Arusha is the closets town to the mountain. International airports with the closest access to the town are Kilimanjaro National Airport in Kenya, or Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. If you will be travelling from the airports by car, take the A23 to Usa River Village. The village is only about 10 kilometers away from Arusha. You will need to drive another 30 kilometers from there on a gravel road to get to Momella Gate. There is no reliable public transport to the park, so unless you pre-booked a tour, you will have to get there on your own steam by hiring a car, preferably a 4 x 4.