Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park is one of Tanzania’s smallest parks, the park is easily visited as part of the northern safari circuit to The Serengeti and Ngorongoro. although small, this is one of the prettiest, most interesting, and game-rich parks in the country. It is also home to Tanzania’s first tree-top walkway. Pending the planned incorporation of the Marang Forest above the escarpment, the park is only 330 sq km (127 sq miles) in size which is tiny by Tanzanian standards and about two-thirds of that is water. The rest is a long thin strip of land sandwiched between the lake and the cliff, served by a very few extremely rough roads. There is only one permanent lodge actually within the park, the exclusive Lake Manyara Tree Lodge at the far end of the park beyond the reach of most daytrippers. Most of the other lodges are built along the rim of the escarpment, with fabulous views across the lake, and safely out of the way of the mosquitoes.

Fact The phenomenon of tree-climbing lions was first studied at Manyara and is still associated with the park, though it is also seen in some other parts of Tanzania, particularly the Serengeti’s Seronera Valley. It is thought it began as a way of avoiding biting flies and has been imitated as individuals move across territories. The park and lake take their name from the Manyara bush (euphorbia tirucalli) used by the Maasai to build their stockades. The Maasai actually use the same word, emanyara, for a kraal. There is a Manyara bush at the park entrance. 

Wildlife in Lake Manyara National Park

Once inside, the first part of the park is thick ground-water forest with huge trees, including Cape mahogany, croton, sycamore fig and several sorts of palm. Beneath these soaring canopies, dense undergrowth provides a delightful array of wildflowers and butterflies, but this is not easy country for game viewing. You should see troops of olive baboons and Sykes’ monkeys playing beside the road. Bushbuck may emerge from the shade, and as you round a bend, you are quite likely to find an elephant in your path. They frequently choose to use the roads rather than having to struggle through the tangled undergrowth. The local lions frequently take to the trees, and there are also plenty of leopards, although you need luck to see them. As the vegetation changes, so does the wildlife, with plains animals such as buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe making an appearance.  

Birds of Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara Tanzania has many wonderful birds, including the giant silverycheeked hornbill. The further you reach into the park, the drier it becomes, gradually opening out into forests of umbrella-topped fever trees and baobabs. Above, martial and bateleur eagles circle idly on the thermals as they scan for prey. Near the southern end of the park, there are two groups of bubbling, steaming hot springs that have dyed the surrounding ground a rainbow of colors with their chemicals. Like most other Rift Valley lakes, Manyara is a shallow soda lake, fed by groundwater, and varying hugely in size according to the season. As it shrinks back, a broad floodplain opens up. Many animals choose to graze the new shoots and wallow in the muddy shallows. Among them paddle water birds such as pelicans, flamingos, cormorants, and herons, while a little further out, pods of hippos grunt and puff their way through the heat of the day.