One of Tanzania’s smallest parks, Lake Manyara is also one of its most scenic. With a breathtaking landscape at the base of the Rift Valley’s western escarpment, Ernest Hemingway described the incredible scenery as the loveliest he had seen in Africa. Dominated by the large alkaline lake, which attracts a huge variety of both birds and wildlife, the park is one of our favourites.
Stretching along the base of the Rift Valley’s western escarpment, two-thirds of Lake Manyara National Park is underwater. Although the park is small by African standards, covering around 330 square kilometres, it is one of the most diverse parks of the northern circuit. In fact, there are thought to be 11 different ecosystems within the park, which range from ancient forest, thick scrubland, mixed acacia woodlands, to the wide grassy floodplains adjacent to the shore of the shallow alkaline lake.
This diversity and lush grazing attracts a whole host of herbivores including giraffe, zebra, elephant, wildebeest, waterbuck, hippo, buffalo, warthog and impala. The forest areas attract leopard and Lake Manyara is a great place to spot tree-climbing lions. Although these are not unique to the park, it is thought that this habit originated here during the 1960s, as the lions sought to escape a nasty biting fly that devastated the lion population in the Ngorongoro Crater.
Birders will be in their element and we’d encourage anyone with an interest in bird spotting to include Lake Manyara on their itinerary. You can expect to see pelican, flamingo, heron, egret, spoonbill and other waders, along with silvery-cheeked hornbill, crowned eagle and crested guinea fowl, so binoculars are a must.
One highlight of a safari in Lake Manyara is the opportunity to take a night game drive, offered by many of the camps within the park, giving you the chance to spot some of the bush’s rarest nocturnal beasts. This is not possible in most other parts of Tanzania. For nature lovers wanting to experience something a little different, we can also arrange for a treetop walk, high up in the forest canopy. A boardwalk will take you over bridges suspended among the tree trunks. At heights of up to 370 metres, you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the forest, along with learning about the flora and fauna indigenous to the area.
We think that the compact size of Lake Manyara National Park means that visitors can enjoy a more intimate game viewing experience and see a wide range of both scenery and wildlife in a relatively small area, making it a great option for a stay.