Covering about 330km², of which about two-thirds is underwater, Lake Manyara National Park is small by African standards. However, it’s also very beautiful and contains a tremendous diversity of habitats and wildlife. Set beneath the spectacular backdrop of the Great Rift Valley’s steep western escarpment, this long, narrow park protects an area between the escarpment and Lake Manyara.
The park’s namesake is a shallow, alkaline lake which expands and contracts with the seasons. Adjacent to it are wide, grassy floodplains and, further away, bands of mixed acacia woodland. Hugging the escarpment, patches of enchanting evergreen forest are sustained by perennial groundwater springs.
Lake Manyara’s game includes good numbers of elephant, buffalo, wildebeest and giraffe. Look more carefully for zebra, warthog, impala, Kirk’s dik-dik, waterbuck in marshy areas, and klipspringer on the rocky slopes. The broken forests and escarpment make it good country for leopard, whilst Manyara’s healthy lion population is famous for climbing trees.
(Whilst unusual, this isn’t as unique as is often claimed.) Huge troops of baboons, which often number several hundred, are
widely regarded as Africa’s largest. As with the habitats, the birdlife here is exceptionally varied. Flocks of pelicans and
the pink shading of distant flamingos are often seen on the lake, whilst the margins and floodplains feed innumerable herons,
egrets, stilts, storks and spoonbills. The woodlands are productive, but it’s in the evergreen forests that you’ll see more entertaining species like raucous silverycheeked hornbills, crowned eagles and crested guinea fowl.
The entrance gate at the north of Lake Manyara National Park is easy to access: it’s about 90 minutes’ drive from Arusha
and barely 45 minutes from Ngorongoro. Consequently, the park’s northern side gets very busy, especially during afternoons. To see this park at its best, either stay at Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, or spend two nights somewhere close, entering the park early for a full-day safari. At the southern end of the park, tucked in a dense forest, Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is the only safari lodge within the park. It is a striking, contemporary lodge with exceptional service. The main area is a multi-level, open-fronted structure overlooking the sandy boma. Meals are served from the stylish open kitchen or fresh from the tandoori oven.