Lake Manyara National Park Tanzania
One of Northern Tanzania’s smallest but most picturesque parks; Lake Manyara National Park is situated at the base of the Rift Valley escarpment. The lake is often covered in flocks of pink lesser flamingos, and is surrounded by marshland where hippo and buffalo wallow in the shallows. It is found in the Northern part of Tanzania and the entrance gate is 126 Kilometers west of Arusha on a newly tarmacked road. This park is 330 sq km of which up to 200 sq km is made up of the lake.
Baboons frolic on the grass, squabbling amongst themselves, while vervet monkeys swing through the trees. The vegetation around Lake Manyara feels much more tropical, with grassy floodplains, acacia woodland and hot springs to explore. Aside from the lake, the area is most famous for its tree-climbing lions, but there is plenty of other wildlife to enjoy too, including elephant, zebra and giraffe. Bird life is also superb, with almost 400 recorded species, including the flashy, multi-colored bee-eaters and silvery-cheeked horn bills.
The place is very small in size, and a majority of the area is covered by the lake itself, but it still hosts as many as 11 ecosystems and a vast and varied wildlife. The groundwater forest surroundings at Lake Manyara offer a much-needed break from African Savannah. Tree-climbing lions are the superstars here, but predator sightings are difficult. A close encounter with hundreds of elephants is the next best thing. There’s also a shallow alkaline lake at the base of the western stretching 50 kilometers along the base of the rusty-gold 600-metre high of the Rift Valley Escarpment. It glitters in the sun and is often covered in cloud upon cloud of pink lesser flamingos. In the deeper areas of the lake small pods of hippo bask, ears flickering, with egrets resting on their backs. Surrounding the lake is a particularly pretty park with a variety of habitats, including grassy floodplains, groundwater forest, acacia woodland and the rocky base of the escarpment.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit this park is June, July, August, September and October when the country is at its driest although the mornings are colder. At this time, it is easier to watch the wild animals as they gather to around the water holes to take some water. More favorable also, during this period, the vegetation is not very dense. This is when also the great migration gets ready to cross the river.
How to get there:
The best option to get to Lake National park is by taking a domestic flight from Arusha town to either Kilimanjaro International Airport which is 46 kilometers from Arusha town OR by flying into Julius Nyerere International Airport which is in Dar es Salam and then takes a charter flight to either Arusha or Kilimanjaro international airport.
Alternatively, one may decide to go by road heading to the southwest of Arusha. This is a distance of 126 Kilometers on a well paved road. Some tourists opt to land in Nairobi and then connect to the park by shuttle bus which goes up to Arusha town.
Things to Do in Tanzania
Game drives: This is a must to do in Lake Manyara National park as the park is famous for it’s abundant wildlife that is present both during the day and in the night. The diverse ecosystem allows gives freedom to the big cats both during the day and the night. The park is best known for it’s tree climbing lions that usually rest in the sausage trees. There are also big troops of baboons and monkeys, a reasonable number of elephants, Zebras, wildebeests, giraffes and also buffalos. One can also catch up with the wildebeest thundering across the Serengeti during the Great Migration.
Lake Manyara Tree top Walk way: This activity allows you adventure on a 370 Meters high walk in the air. This walk that lets you pass right among the treetops gives you a clear and spectacular view of the forest canopy. It is done on Short board walks which eventually rise in an altitude that lead to specific bridges that have nets on both ends.
Birding: Lake Manyara National park has over 400 species of birds that also includes the migratory ones from Euroasian locations. Of the 400 species, 3 of them are endangered and unique to Tanzania while most of them migrate from Lake Manyara and the famous Lake Natron. Most common birds in this region are the flamingos, Pink lesser, Grey crowned crane and the Fischer’s sparrow lark.
Adventure: For adventurous and nature lovers, Lake Manyara National Park allows you to go canoeing on Lake Manyara. While on the canoe, one gets to see some of the aquatic species of birds, not missing out on the pink flamingos. Closer still while on the canoe, one gets to watch elephants and a good number of giraffes as they come to take water from the lake.
Visit Maasai Community: This park is being surrounded by the Maasai people. With their rich culture, they still stay in the circular huts made of straw and mud. These houses are referred to as Bombas. This is one of the very few tribes in Tanzania that has kept their culture rich and still warm. Travellers may decide to taste the local cuisine and join them in the dancing as they experience the real African feel.
Lake Manyara Serena safari Lodge: Located 130 kilometers from Arusha town and only 5 kilometers to the park gate, this lodge is found outside the park but on the edge of Mto Wa Mbu escarpment. While at this lodge, travellers get a very good view of Rift valley and it’s soda lake. It has 67 rooms that where designed like the Maasai huts with each having en suite bathroom, private Verandah, telephone, WiFi and hair dryer. Other facilities and services offered include outside dining terrace, a swimming pool, a tented conference room a curio shop among others.
Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge: This is located on the edge of the Rift Valley escarpment approximately 130 kilometers from Arusha town. While at this lodge, one gets a very good view of Lake Manyara national park and the near Soda Lake. It is only 10 minutes’ drive to Manyara airstrip. It has a total of 100 rooms with en suite bathrooms, private verandahs, coffee making facilities, telephone etc. Other facilities include an internet café, TV lounge, business center, a swimming pool and a restaurant that overlooks the lake and the rift valley.
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge: Found on the Southern border of the park and located 150 kilometers form Arusha town, this lodge consists of 10 spacious tree houses built from local timber and palm fronds. The rooms are spacious enough and give comfortable and breathtaking views of the surrounding environment. Among the facilities and services offered include a dining area, private viewing deck, night game drives, picnics and breakfast on the lake shore, bird watching and also free massages.
Kirurumu Manyara Lodge: It’s situated 140 km from Arusha town, this lodge is set high up on the edge of the Rift Valley Escarpment. It is also 20 minutes away from Lake Manyara National Park. There are 27 tented rooms with wooden Verandahs and en suite bathrooms. There’s a bar and restaurant with a good view of the rift valley, guided walks to the Maasai cultural village, a curio shop, a boutique among others.
Migunga Forest Camp: Located 120 kilometers from Arusha town, this camp is on 35 acres of acacia forest and only 5 minutes’ drive from Lake Manyara National park. It consists of 21 luxury tents built on raised platforms with private verandahs and attached bathrooms. The facilities at this camp include a well-stocked bar and restaurant with a reading area and services offered include guided walks, mountain biking and camp fire.
Burudika Lodge: Located 113 Kilometers from Arusha town and only 30 minutes’ drive to the main gate of Lake Manyara National Park. Also found in Jangwani Wildlife corridor of Mto Wa Mbu Game Controlled Area. The Lodge has 5 bandas each with a shower and toilet. Inside furnishings of the rooms are simply decorated with interwoven wood and sisal ropes. Each Banda has a private verandah that offers spectacular view of the lake and the Great Rift Valley. Facilities and services include a bar, Curio shop, and cultural visits to the Maasai ethnic group. On weekends, visitors may decide to have meals under the acacia tree shades.