Lake Manyara National Park
From whichever way you approach this hauntingly beautiful soda lake, your first view of Lake Manyara is spectacular. From the east, the sheer red cliffs of the Rift Valley wall rise several hundred metres to form an impressive backdrop. But from the west on the top of the escarpment, the park lies far below – a long green strip of water glistening in the sunlight.
The Lake Manyara National Park covers an area of 330 sq km of which two-thirds is the lake itself. It is is well-known for its unique ground-water forest and famous tree-climbing lions. (Though these are seldom seen). However this compact, attractive park has good concentrations of lion, elephant, buffalo, impala, zebra, hippo and giraffes aplenty. Despite being so close to habitation and farmland, Lake Manyara remains a unique sanctuary for wildlife and birds.
Bird-watching at Lake Manyara
Indeed with 380 species recorded, a Lake Manyara safari is one of the most rewarding bird-watching experiences in Tanzania. Sometimes pink-tinged with the wings of flamingos, Lake Manyara is home to pelicans and many other aquatic bird species. Here you’ll see herons, egrets, spoonbills and other waders. Plus the evergreen forests close to the escarpment give rewarding sightings of silver-cheeked hornbills, crowned eagles and even the comical guinea owl.
The lake, with its Rift Valley panorama, was in the film Out of Africa. (Remember the famous scene when the two lovers fly over the escarpment in a small plane?) Whilst the rest of the reserve is a fascinating mix of vegetation. Open savanna and lakeshore mix with shady forest glades and fresh water streams.
Wildlife in Lake Manyara
Researcher Iain Douglas-Hamilton made the Lake Manyara elephant herds famous with his book ‘Among the Elephants’. Now elephant numbers at Lake Manyara are growing steadily after heavy poaching in the 20th century. And you can see good size herds on a Lake Manyara safari. Another notable sighting are baboons in huge numbers. Enjoy watching troops of up to 200 individuals all playing and interacting with each other.
Best time to visit Lake Manyara?
Lake Manyara Park is only about 1½ hours drive from Arusha. And it’s also close to the Ngorongoro Crater. Therefore it’s easy to include a Lake Manyara safari in a northern Tanzania safari circuit. Especially in the summer months of December to March. But, given its accessibility, it does get busy with day visitors during the peak season (dry winter months).
Lake Manyara Lodges
If your time permits, we recommend staying for one or two nights in the park at Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. So you can enjoy the park after the day visitors have left. Or opt for Lake Manyara Serena which is also close by. (We use this in our Tanzania Discovery safari). A little further away are several smaller Lake Manyara lodges, generally on working farms and estates around Karatu. Think Gibb’s Farm, Ngorongoro Farmhouse, Plantation Lodge or the Manor at Ngorongoro. Plus we sometimes use these as a base for visiting both Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater.