The Boma natural history museum of is a compound that showcases the natural history, wildlife, culture and artifacts of the Arusha region – Tanzania. It is housed inside what was an old German military outpost and has three separate buildings that are open to the public (the rest being offices), an outdoor mini botanical garden and an outdoor art and crafts gallery.
One of the three buildings are for wildlife, the other for history of the region’s events and the third for archaeological history. The museum is part of the national museums of Tanzania, that also includes the Dar es Salaam museum, Sukuma museum, Mwalimu Nyerere museum and the Makumbusho village museum.Some of the things that can be found at the museum include:
- #1. Artifacts from excavations of neighbouring areas such as Olduvai Gorge and other dead wildlife
- #2. A history of the region of Arusha and its people
- #3. A wildlife section with photographs and taxidermy
- #4. An arts gallery that displays the work of over 12 of the best local artists
- #5. Art and crafts lessons from local including painting, drum making etc
- #6. A mini botanical garden
- #7. A small pond with some of the local freshwater fish
- #8. A mini serpentarium
- #9. A mini zoo with some of the region’s rare animals such as an eagle
- #10. A insect section detailing some of the diseases and problems they cause
- #11. A taxidermy office
- #12. Photography of some of the local tribes
A history of the place: The Original Boma was built from 1899 to 1900 to be a German military outpost for the region of Arusha. This was to keep a closer eye on the Meru and Arusha tribes, whose opposition they had just defeated in the years 1897 and 1898. It also served as an administrative office and residence for other officials of the colonial rule.
The defeated warriors were forced to dig out stone with their spears and ferry them to the construction site using their shields, working at least seven hours each day to build the fort. The tribe’s women and children were forced to bring banana fiber for thatching while the elderly had to create the mortar for joining the stone from wet mud.
The final structure was a walled rectangular compound with a trench about 6 feet deep and a barbed wire fence making its outside perimeter. Inside the compound were several buildings, whereas outside and next to it were a coffee plantation and a kitchen garden.
It was the first modern structure in the whole region and a security stronghold, something that brought more people to the area seeking employment and trade opportunities. When the British took over from the Germans after the first world war, its use as a fort continued, with the front two buildings being used by government officers.
In 1979, it was turned into a natural history museum by the then independent government of Tanzania. Since then several sections have been added, including the mini botanical garden, a small aquarium – pond, an arts gallery for the local artists that also provides lessons, a wildlife section, a history section and an artifacts section.
Throughout this whole period, there was a road that approached the compound from the lower south that was lined with trees on either side. This road still exists today, with some of the original trees and has taken the compound’s name – Boma road.
What to do there?Learn about the history of the region of arusha from as early as the late 19th century up until the mid 20th century (the declaration museum has more of 20th century history). You can also learn a lot more about animals and insects that can be found in the area’s national parks as well as common homes.
There also are a lot of artifacts from excavations in the neighbouring areas, like the famous zinjathropus skull from Olduvai gorge (a copy) and life like sculptures of early man for you to view. At the museum’s rear is a gallery where some of the local artists showcase as well as create their work.
If you are lucky, you may catch one of them doing their thing or even create some art of your own under their guidance for a small fee. The art section also provides drum making lessons as well as art for sale. Don’t forget to check out the real life eagle, fish and tortoises.
Location of Boma Natural History museum: The Boma Natural history museum of Arusha is located at the uphill end of Boma rd. amidst a tranquil, tree filled neighbourhood of the city of Arusha – Tanzania. It also is well inside the CBD and within close proximity to offices, hotels, restaurants, tour and travel agents and shops. It also lies in the riparian zone of the Themi river, that flows from the slopes of mt. Meru, through the city and out from its southern suburbs. For more information about its location, please see the map below (click to start).
How to get there? With private transport, you would first need to get to the clock tower, a famous monument of the city, then from there head uphill (north). The museum is the located at the end of the northbound – Boma road that was named after it.
If you are using public transport then you would need to find mini buses headed to the clock tower or arusha hotel area and get off at the clock tower stop. From there a simple ten minutes walk uphill should get you to the museum.
Arusha City Map
Arusha Mini Guide
Located in north eastern Tanzania, Arusha is the capital of the Arusha Region. The city is situated under the towering giant Mount Meru, and Mount Kilimanjaro is just 82.6km away.
Arusha was first settled in the 1830s by the Arusha Maasai. These agropastoral settlers belonged to the Arusha Chini community who lived south of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Arusha is the safari capital of Tanzania, and a popular stopover for adventurers who are preparing for a Kilimanjaro trek.
It is possible to rent a car in Arusha but parking costs $0.50 per day throughout the city. It is far more common to hire a driver, and this is particularly useful for daytrips to Arusha National Park. If you are renting a vehicle, make sure that there is no charge for ‘extra kilometres’, as this can become expensive.
Dala dalas (small minibuses) are common throughout Tanzania and these only depart when they are full. They cost 400 TSH/person and they operate along the major roads throughout the day. You will find a large station on Stadium Street.
You can also take a bajaji (tuk-tuk) for a one-dollar ride to the city centre. None of these options are particularly comfortable or safe, but they do offer an authentic Tanzanian experience.
Taxis are available and they can usually be found parked in front of hotels. A ride across town should not cost more than $2.50.
There are some Bureaus de Change in Arusha clustered around the Clock Tower, and some ATMs in the city centre. It is a good idea to stop by these before your safari to take out some notes. There are not many other options during the Northern Circuit and it is good to have cash to buy souvenirs or tip drivers and guides.
Arusha is relatively safe for tourists, but it is wise not to wear too much jewellery. The risk increases at night, and we do not recommend walking the streets after dark. But in general, the city is known for its welcoming atmosphere, and the people are very pleased to have such a thriving tourism economy, meaning the locals treat tourists well. We recommend that you travel the city by taxi since dala dalas (small minibuses) and bajajis (tuk-tuks) are more dangerous. A taxi ride across town should not cost more than $2.50.
No, you cannot see Kilimanjaro from Arusha. Mt Kilimanjaro is situated 82.6km away from Arusha.
There is more to Arusha than initially meets the eye. With impressive museums, cultural heritage programmes, crafts, and curio markets galore, there is plenty to explore before you start your safari.
The city is multinational, with Iraqw, Hadzabe, Maasai, South Asian, and European residents.
The streets are bustling, with Maasai women sat on the sidewalks selling their beadwork, Maasai men wandering through town in their traditional red swathes, enterprising businessman trying to sell batiks, and tour guides offering various exciting 4WD adventures.
Despite this intensity, the city has a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Matching the ambiance of the city, the architecture and infrastructure is chaotic, with hectic traffic and old colonial buildings mixed with modern conveniences.
There are some excellent authentic street-food options in Arusha. At Discovery Restaurant, you can sit beside Maasai men and enjoy a Myama choma (roasted meat and maize), chapati, pilau, or biryani.
Alternatively, try out Khan’s BBQ on Mosque Street, which serves great chicken dishes, Indian style chutneys, naans, and salads.
More upmarket options can be found in the Eastern side of town. Some of the best dining options are found outside of the city. The Themi Living Gardens is a leafy spot where you can eat at the eco-restaurant, Eat Wild. The Mulberry is another outer-city oasis where you can sit back and enjoy cocktails as you watch the sunset. For travellers who like to party, this is an excellent spot for pre-drinks.
The city has a lively nightlife, with several bars and nightclubs (we recommend Via Via) and a growing live music scene. There are weekly acts at the Mount Meru Game Lodge, Blue Heron, and the Fig and Olive.
In the City
There are several budget options in Arusha, including The African Tulip and the Impala Hotel.
The Impala Hotel: A large hotel with a pool and restaurant, and it is a great option if you are looking for a place to stay after an international flight or the night before a safari.
The African Tulip: A quaint boutique hotel which offers an airport shuttle. Most of the upmarket hotels can be found in the eastern area of Arusha. The Gran Melia Arusha offers fantastic views of Mt Meru, a well-stocked bar, a spa, and a pool.
In the Suburbs
Some of the best accommodation options in Arusha lie outside of the city. The less expensive options include Onsea House, Rivertrees, and Arumeru River Lodge.
Onsea House: A charming boutique guesthouse that was originally a farmhouse. It has two swimming pools, a sauna, a steam room, and a jacuzzi, and its gardens are tranquil. The guesthouse also has a restaurant which serves delicious food.
The guesthouse is only an hour away from the airport, making it an excellent place to relax before or after a safari. Onsea House offers 2 double suites and a family suite that overlooks the Meru Valley. The adjacent self-contained cottage is perfect for families.
Arumeru River Lodge: A peaceful lodge which offers great access to Kilimanjaro International Airport. It has vast gardens which are home to dik-diks, monkeys and countless bird species. On a clear day, the lodge has exceptional views of Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro. The lodge organises horseback safaris and it is tastefully furnished with traditional dhow furniture.
Rivertrees Lodge: Located on an old coffee farm and with views of Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro, the lodge is an excellent base for trekking. The delicious food matches the high quality of the coffee, and its oven-fired pizza pit is popular with its guests.
Arusha Coffee Lodge: Just a 25-minute drive from Arusha, this old plantation brims with luxury. The exquisitely decorated rooms are spread across the grounds and each room has its own indoor fireplace. Given that the lodge is a former coffee plantation, it offers tours of the old plantation house and coffee-making process. The theme of coffee runs throughout the hotel – in the bar, restaurant, gardens, and even the spa.
On the one hand, you must visit Arusha on any trip to Tanzania – this is the starting point for some of Tanzania’s most famous sites, including Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, and Ngorongoro Crater. So, should you stay more than one night in Arusha? There is certainly plenty to do in the town – from cultural programmes, to museums, to shopping to day trips – there is enough to spend at least two days. If you already have a full itinerary, including hiking, safaris, and beach work in Zanzibar, then perhaps it is best to only stay one night in one of Arusha’s attractive plantation guesthouses.
Arusha is known for being the safari capital of Tanzania, and a popular stopover for adventurers who are preparing for a Kilimanjaro trek.