Lake Manyara National Park

Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park offers a true wilderness experience in a diverse landscape, from its Rift Valley soda lake to dense woodlands and steep mountainsides.

Located on the way to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, Lake Manyara National Park is worth a stop in its own right. Its ground water forests, bush plains, baobab-strewn cliffs, and algae-streaked hot springs offer incredible ecological variety in a small area, rich in wildlife and incredible numbers of birds.

The alkaline soda of Lake Manyara is home to an incredible array of bird life that thrives on its brackish waters. Pink flamingo stop and graze by the thousands colourful specks against the grey minerals of the lakeshore. Yellow-billed storks swoop and corkscrew on thermal winds rising up from the escarpment, and herons flap their wings against the sun-drenched sky. Even reluctant bird-watchers will find something to watch and marvel at within the national park.

Lake Manyara’s famous tree-climbing lions are another reason to pay a visit to this park. The only kind of their species in the world, they make the ancient mahogany and elegant acacias their home during the rainy season, and are a well-known but rather rare feature of the northern park. In addition to the lions, the national park is also home to the largest concentration of baboons anywhere in the world – a fact that accounts for interesting game viewing of large families of the primates.

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”.

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; the blue monkeys scamper nimbly between the ancient mahogany trees; dainty bushbuck tread warily through the shadows, and the outsized forest hornbills honk cacophonously in the high canopy.

In contrast 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, and so do the giraffes, some so dark in colour that they appear to be black from a distance.

Inland of the floodplain, a narrow belt of acacia woodland is the favoured haunt of Manyara’s legendary tree-climbing lions and impressively tusked elephants. Squadrons of banded mongoose dart between the acacias, whereas the diminutive Kirk’s dik-dik forages in their shade. Pairs of klipspringer are often seen silhouetted on the rocks above a field of searing hot springs that steams and bubbles adjacent to the lakeshore in the far south of the park. Other animals to be found include giraffe, leopard, hyenas, bushbuck, reedbuck, waterbuck, impala, gazelle, warthog, dik-dik and vervet monkey.

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 water birds such as pelicans, cormorants and storks.

What to do in Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park is a great tourist destination in Tanzania offering breath-taking and memorable experiences to tourists visiting the park for a safari, safari activities offered in the park include

 

Game Drives/ Viewing

Game drives are among the famous activities that one can engage while in Lake Manyara National Park; famous for its tree- climbing lions, the park also has diverse habitats for other wildlife species like elephants, baboons, impalas, Klipspringers, Zebras, and Hippos among others.

Game drives in the park take place in different times of the day; morning game drives, afternoon, full day and night game drives. Morning game drives start early and chances of catching sight of a variety of wildlife species are high because of how active the animals are at this time of the day. Afternoon game drives take place in the course of the day though wildlife viewing is unpredictable since wildlife species seek shelter under the trees and in the hidden areas of the park. Night game drives provide an opportunity to catch sight of the nocturnal wildlife species in the park while the full day game drives start in the morning and continues throughout the day as visitors explore the wilderness of the national park.

 

Boat or Canoe Ride

Relax and enjoy the scenic views around Lake Manyara National Park during the boat or canoe ride. This is a great way to explore the aquatic species. During a boat ride, hippos can be seen in the shallow lake and also enjoy views of the rift valley escarpments as well as the beautiful scenery in the national park made up of a forested area, open savannah and the woodlands.

 

Nature Walks

In Lake Manyara national park, nature walks include the treetop walkway that involves walking along a designated walkway into the forest area of national park, it gives an up-close experience with nature and wildlife species such as monkeys and different bird species.

The Majimoto board way is also another trail followed and it rewards with views of Lake Manyara and other scenic photography locations at the destination. There is also the hippo pool viewpoint, which is a raised wooden platform on the northern shores of the lake that offers a view of the hippos and the walls of the rift valley.

 

Community Visits

Community visits involve tourists visiting the local community in Mto wa Mbu town located close to the national park, interact with the Maasai locals known for their unique culture, Visit the Manyattas and kraals of the Maasai, watch them perform their traditional dances and songs.

The Maasai also have different artifacts such as the famous beaded jewerly like necklaces, bangles, earrings and anklets that are usually made by the Maasai women. The beads are significant to the Maasai and are made in different colors and patterns.

 

Bird Watching

Different bird species can also be seen during a visit to Lake Manyara national park, which boosts of a diverse habitat making it a good birding spot. With over 400 bird species, which are viewed while on bird watching adventure in the park, the park hosts Eurasian migrant birds, acacia associated birds, raptors and three endangered Tanzanian species. Bird species viewed in Lake Manyara national park include Abdim’s stork, southern ground hornbill, spur-winged goose, von der Decken’s hornbill, yellow-billed stork. These birds are best viewed in the period of November to April when there is migratory bird species and in the period of June to October, which is apparently a dry season.

WhEN TO VISIT Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park is considered as all year round Tanzania safari destination however, the dry season from June to October is considered the best time for game viewing. Lake Manyara National Park experiences two main seasons in a year, that is the dry season and wet season each of these coming with its unique rewards as highlighted below.

The park experiences the dry season during the months of June to October, and this is also referred to as the peak tourist season. The short dry season comes in January and February with large number of tourists flooding the park, which results into more costly safari tours as the demand on accommodation, is generally high. During that time of the year, animals gather around the few remaining water sources and because the vegetation is thin, they can easily be spotted. This time of the year is also highly recommended to visit as there is a lot of sun with little rains and since mosquitoes are very few, there are slighter chances of contracting malaria.

The wet season in Lake Manyara National Park is experienced from November to May. The coming of the rains bring life to park’s terrain, with the dried vegetation thriving again and a beautiful green scenery unveils yet again. Generally, the rates are lower since the place is usually less crowded during the low season in the months of April and May. Although the best views of wildlife are enjoyed during the dry season, Lake Manyara National Park still provides good viewing of the wildlife throughout the year. Many migratory birds are seen in the park during the wet season, hence making it the best time to see the Lake Manyara birds.

The short rains begin in November to December and at that time of the year, it is generally hot with average temperatures of 35°C / 95°F presenting with short thunderstorms in the afternoons. This is proceeded with the long rains that begin in March. Due to the rains, most roads in the park may become very hard to traverse especially in the months of March, April and May when Lake Manyara is experiencing the heaviest rains.

This is the best time to enjoy a Budget Tanzania Safari since there are fewer tourists visiting the park and most of the accommodation facilities are offering great discounts, which lowers the overall cost of a safari in Lake Manyara National Park at this time of the year.

In summary, the best time for viewing large mammals in Lake Manyara National Park is in the dry season from June to October and January to February, and then bird watching can best be done during the wet season from November to December and from March to May.

HOW TO GET To Lake Manyara National Park

The park can be accessed either through the southern or northern gates. The northern gate is more commonly used since most accommodation is located in its vicinity. The distance from Arusha to Lake Manyara National Park is 126 km, which about 90 minutes’ drive.

There are two major means of transport used to get to Lake Manyara National Park and these include:

By Air

The best way to get to Lake Manyara is by flying into the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA).From Arusha, the airport is located about 46 km .Using a domestic flight, it is also possible to fly to Arusha Airport (ARK) while flying from the Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam .

Alternatively, you can take an international flight to the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam and then catch a connecting flight from either JRO or Arusha Airport (ARK). There are charter flights to the Lake Manyara Airport (LKY) that connect from the Serengeti or Arusha. From there you can connect by road to the park gate, which is about 16.km away (approximately 30 minutes’ drive)

Domestic flights can be arranged with a domestic carrier. In addition to this, charter flights between parks are in most cases booked as part of your safari package.

 

By Road

Located southwest of Arusha town, the distance from Arusha to Lake Manyara National Park is 126 km (78 miles) and can easily be reached by car. You can also flexibly get there from Bahati, the capital of Manyara region. This is the most popular transport means among holidaymakers visiting the park along the northern safari circuit.

One can also take a trip (road safari) along the newly tarred road connecting from Arusha which only takes 1 ½ to 2 hours to reach the entrance gate. Considering that Manyara Park is on the way to the more renowned Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti National Park which are the other parks on the northern circuit.