Best Outdoor Activity to Do in Arusha, Tanzania: Mountain Biking
Arusha is a city located in the north-eastern part of Tanzania, just below Mount Meru and close to a bunch of popular attractions:
- Serengeti National Park
- Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- Lake Manyara National Park
- Olduvai Gorge
- Tarangire National Park
- Mount Kilimanjaro
- Arusha National Park
Due to its proximity to all these destinations, Arusha is often used as a base for adventure travelers.
Unfortunately, I visited during the rainy month of October (because of cheap tickets), so it rained for almost 80% of my time in Tanzania, destroying any plans I had of going to the national parks.
The best time to visit Arusha, Tanzania is from June to October, which are the driest months. If you’re going to see the wildlife, this is a great time to spot them since they normally gather around the waterholes. Besides, rainfall is also minimal, the vegetation is not too thick, and there are not too many mosquitoes.
However, the early mornings and nights of June through August can be cold, so make sure you bring some warm clothes. From late October to December and from March to May, most of the annual rainfall occurs. If you don’t mind getting wet, visiting during this time promises you lush, green landscapes, and also some migratory birds.
How to Get to Arusha, Tanzania
The easiest way to get to Arusha is by flying directly to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), which has regular flights to Amsterdam, Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, and Nairobi. It is situated approximately 60km (45 minutes) from the city center. A taxi ride should cost USD 50, but many airlines offers free or cheap shuttle service.
Alternatively, you can fly to Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam and get a connecting domestic flight to Arusha Airport (ARK), which is just on the outskirts of the city.
Arusha can also be reached by express coach from Nairobi, Kenya (6 hours), Dar es Salaam (12 hours), Kampala, Uganda (17 hours) and other regions in Tanzania, such as Mwanza, Tanga, and Lushoto. Many coach companies offer first-class tickets, which are very comfortable.
Before my trip, I searched on Couchsurfing for a place to stay. And that was how I met Carissa, a local guide who offered to host me for two nights in her home in Arusha.
As any female traveler who has ever used the platform can attest to, it is very, very rare to get an invitation from a female host, so the moment I saw her message, I was almost jumping with joy.
Carissa also told me that she organized cycling tours around Arusha on mountain bikes. I had never been on a mountain bike before, and in all of my adult years, I had only been on regular bikes for about eight times in total.
But I told her I’d give it a try.
Namic Bike Adventures
Carissa owns a tour company called Namic Bike Adventures.
It all started when she left her job in the city and moved to Arusha to be surrounded by nature (it required some hike to get to her house).
Apart from mountain-biking, she is very passionate about animals, the environment, and being in the wilderness.
She soon realized that she could combine her passion for nature and mountain-biking, and turn it into a career. Thus, Namic Bike Adventures was born. The name stands for “Nature Miracles” and C for Carissa.
The company now has a team of guides who are determined to give you the best and most affordable mountain-biking adventures to all beautiful destinations in Arusha.
Tour Options at Namic Bike Adventures
Namic Bike Adventures offers many different tour options to suit your personal preference and skill level. Here are some of the most popular ones:
Arusha National Park
Go on a guided bike tour inside Arusha National Park, where you might get to see different animals such as giraffes, monkeys, buffaloes, zebras, and various bird species. During your ride, you will be accompanied by an armed ranger and a support vehicle to ensure safety.
Arusha National Park covers 137 sq km and has three significant features, namely Mount Meru (4566m), Ngurdoto Crater, and alkaline Momela Lakes.
Total distance: 21 km (7 hours)
This tour will take you on tarmac road to Arusha Declaration Museum, Arusha Declaration Monument, the city bus terminal, Arusha Central Market, and the Maasai Market where you can find handicraft and artwork including batik, traditional clothes, and sculptures.
The tour will end at Arusha clock tower, which marks the exact midpoint between Cairo and Cape Town, as well as the center of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
What to Expect from Namic Bike Adventures
On the day of the tour, Carissa took out the bikes and let me try them. Well, let me tell you one thing: mountain bikes are nothing like regular bikes.
First of all, they’re bigger. My feet barely touched the ground. Secondly, they have those horizontal bars in their frames. And lastly, they have all those gears. I was so used to simple city bikes, whereby the only things I needed to know were how to pedal and how to brake.
Namic Bike Adventures uses only Trec bikes. I knew nothing about mountain bikes, but apparently Trec is the best and most expensive brand out there. They have wider handlebars, which means your arms don’t get tired so easily.
We cycled on the dirt roads near her house, through banana plantations, and on a field where I could practice my rusty cycling skills.
Unfortunately, after about half an hour, we both decided that I wasn’t ready to tackle the real track to Lake Duluti. So, we hiked the rest of the way. On our journey to the lake, we passed by a village, saw how the people there lived, interacted with the kids, and tried some local snacks.
We walked around the lake and then rented a canoe. The lake was so calm with only the sound of birds.
But it started pouring right when we were in the middle of it, forcing us to find shelter under some trees. There were also a group of local boys stuck in the rain. By the time the rain stopped, we were all soaked.
Final Thoughts on Mountain Biking in Arusha, Tanzania
Would I recommend the experience?
Yes, definitely. Although I didn’t actually get to cycle all the way to Lake Duluti, it was still a memorable experience cycling and walking in a Tanzanian countryside. The route to the lake itself is worth exploring if only to see the local lifestyle.
Carissa is a great guide. Don’t let her size fool you. She is very strong and capable. She truly cared about my safety and comfort that she made sure I was confident enough on the bike before she’d let me cycle any further. When it turned out that I wasn’t, she didn’t even charge me for the half hour that I spent using the bike.
More than anything, I enjoyed her company during my little tour of Lake Duluti. She even helped me negotiate the price for the canoe rental. If you’re in the area and would like to support local business, make sure to give her a call.
Where to Stay in Arusha, Tanzania
Banana Farm Eco Hostel – Located 10 km from Arusha Central Market, 11 km from Uhuru monument, and 12 km from Njiro Complex, the accommodation offers a shared lounge and kitchen, free private parking, free WiFi, a garden, and a terrace. From TZS 23.1k (USD 10) for a Single Room with private bathroom and breakfast.
Savannah House – Featuring a restaurant, free parking, free bikes, free WiFi, a bar, and a terrace, this hostel also offers a paid airport shuttle service. Located 6 km from Njiro Complex and Arusha Central Market. Each room includes a desk and a private bathroom. From TZS 22k (USD 9.50) for a Family Room with an extra-large double bed and a bunk bed.
Utamaduni House – Only 1.7 km from Njiro Complex and 7 km from Old German Boma, this bed & breakfast provides a bar, a shared lounge, a garden, and barbecue facilities. WiFi and parking available free of charge. From TZS 81k (USD 35) for a Double Room with garden view, including breakfast.
Gran Melia Arusha – Part of the Gran Melia chain, this 5-star hotel features a restaurant, a bar, a swimming pool, a fitness center, and a sauna. Arusha Central Market and Uhuru Monument are only 3.1 km away. Rates start from TZS 585k (USD 252) for a Deluxe Double Room with city view, inclusive of breakfast.
Have you been to Arusha before? Did you try mountain biking or canoeing on Lake Duluti? Share your experience in the comment section below.