Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park is one of the most scenic parks that you will encounter on your journey in Tanzania. The compact game-viewing circuit through Manyara offers a virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari experience.
Stretching for 50km along the base of the rusty-gold 600-metre high Rift Valley escarpment, Lake Manyara is a scenic gem, with a setting extolled by Ernest Hemingway as “the loveliest I had seen in Africa”.
Measuring only 330 sq. km, of which the lake occupies 230 sq. km, it is ideal for a day trip.
Lake Manyara is situated on the base of the escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. It derives its name from the Maasai word ‘manyara’ which is a plant known to us as Euphorbia tiraculli. This plant is used by the Maasai as a hedge to form a stockade for their cattle.
As you approach the village Mto wa Mbu (pronounced mtowamboe) from Arusha, the rift wall provides spectacular viewing. Whilst driving up the rift wall, Lake Manyara appears behind you. The view is breathtaking, as you take in this massive lake with its silver shimmer and surrounding vegetation.
From the entrance gate, the road winds through an expanse of lush jungle-like groundwater forest where hundred-strong baboon troops lounge nonchalantly along the roadside, blue monkeys scamper nimbly between the ancient mahogany trees, dainty bushbuck tread warily through the shadows, and outsized forest hornbills honk cacophonously in the high canopy.
Like most Rift Valley lakes, the water is alkaline. This attracts vast flocks of flamingos, which form pink foam against a silver background of water. There are numerous waterbirds in the area, including pelicans that waddle around next to short grasses on the shore of the lake. The park is a bird lover’s haven with a variety of local species inhabiting the forest and bush. The best time to observe these birds is in the late afternoon and early morning. The park authorities have recently allowed for tourists to canoe along certain portions of the lake, enabling bird and animal watching to become another experience altogether.
Animals found in the area include zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck and warthog. Manyara is also popularity for its tree-climbing lions. These majestic animals find shelter in the branches of trees from the heat and biting flies. There is a particular belt, which they frequent along the woodland, south of the Msasa River. These lions also have a peculiar specialization of killing buffalo. An adult buffalo weighs in the proximity of one and a half tons, being far larger than the average weight of an adult male lion.
Manyara provides the perfect introduction to Tanzania’s birdlife. More than 400 species have been recorded, and even a first-time visitor to Africa might reasonably expect to observe 100 of these in one day. Highlights include thousands of pink-hued flamingos on their perpetual migration, as well as other large waterbirds such as pelicans, cormorants and storks.
On the southern side of the park, you will find the hot springs of Maji Moto. This word directly translated from Swahili means hot water, and is about 60ºC. The views from some of the lodges on the rift wall are spectacular, and it is highly recommended that you spend at least one day/night of your safari in the area.
About Lake Manyara National Park
Size: 330 sq km (127 sq miles), of which up to 200 sq km (77 sq miles) is lake when water levels are high.
Location: In northern Tanzania. The entrance gate lies 1.5 hours (126km/80 miles) west of Arusha along a newly surfaced road, close to the ethnically diverse market town of Mto wa Mbu.
By road, charter or scheduled flight from Arusha, en route to Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.
What to do
Game drives, canoeing when the water levels is sufficiently high.
Cultural tours, mountain bike tours, abseiling and forest walks on the escarpment outside the park.
When to go
Dry season (July-October) for large mammals;
wet season (November-June) for bird watching, the waterfalls and canoeing.
One luxury treehouse-style camp, public
One luxury tented camp and two lodges perched on the Rift Wall overlooking the lake
Several guesthouses and campsites in nearby Mto wa Mbu.
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