Lake Manyara National Park stretches 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”.
The compact game-viewing circuit through Manyara offers a virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari experience.
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 bush buck tread warily through the shadows, and outsized forest horn bills honk cacophonously in the high canopy.
Contrasting with the intimacy of the forest is the grassy floodplain and its expansive views eastward, across the alkaline lake, to the jagged blue volcanic peaks that rise from the endless Maasai Steppes. Large buffalo, wildebeest and zebra herds congregate on these grassy plains, as do giraffes – some so dark in coloration that they appear to be black from a distance.
Lake Manyara National Park is visited during Tanzania’s famed northern circuit safaris. It is an excellent stop over on route to the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park for a variety of reasons:
• Good Biodiversity To Park Size Ratio: Lake Manyara National Park is relatively small and the park can be traversed with in a short period of time while viewing a considerable number of wildlife and bird life. The park is famous for Acacia Tortilis tree-climbing lions. Other animals frequently seen are leopards (also on trees), zebras, impalas, baboons, monkeys, wildebeests, giraffes, buffaloes and elephants. Hippos can be seen either basking or submerged in the hippo pools near the forest.
• Excellent Place To Rest: Lake Manyara National Park is also the perfect place to take a break on route to Ngorongoro Crater giving African Mecca guests the opportunity to stretch their legs and enjoy wildlife and ornithological safari experience at the same time.
• Beautiful Scenery: Most of the accommodation such as Serena Manyara, Kirurumu and the Lake Manyara Hotel are perched on the escarpment with fantastic panoramic views of the lake and beyond.
• Active Programs: Lake Manyara and the areas outside the park has become a hub for active adventure guests where many stop over to enjoy activities such as horse riding, abseiling, mountain biking, canoeing and nature walk safaris.
• Accommodation Fairly Priced: Accommodations at Lake Manyara cater to all personalities making it a must visit park for any person visiting northern Tanzania. The park has at least four recognized accommodations allowing guests the opportunity to select a program that fits their budget.
The word Manyara comes from the Maa (language of the Maasai) word referring to the Euphorbia Tirucalli tree plant used to creates hedges for the Maasai cattle. The Tirucalli is preferred over tree branches by the Maasai because of its resilience and long lasting characteristics.
The total size of Lake Manyara is 330 square kilometers out of which 230 square kilometers includes lake arena where water levels are constantly fluctuating. Lake Manyara’s relatively small size is home to a favorable ecosystem, which includes varied bird, wildlife and vegetation species. The lake gets supplied with water systems that gush out from the base of the Great Rift Valley. African Mecca guests should note that unlike many of its sister lakes found in the Kenya’s Rift Valley, an eastern wall does not cushion Lake Manyara; the land in this part of the Great Rift Valley is a soft depression.
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, night game drives, canoeing when the water levels is sufficiently high.
Cultural tours, picnicking, bush lunch/dinner, mountain bike tours, abseiling and forest walks on the escarpment outside the park.
When to go
Dry season (July-October) for large mammals and Wet season (November-June) for bird watching, the waterfalls and canoeing.
One luxury tree house – style camp, public Banda’s and campsites inside the park.
One luxury tented camp and three lodges perched on the Rift Wall outside the park overlooking the Lake. Several guesthouses and campsites in nearby Mto wa Mbu.